Apostle of the Lepers
Born in 1840 at Tremeloo, Belgium into a devout family of means, Joseph took the name Damien as a priest of the community known as the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, to which he brother also belonged. He was sent to the Hawaiian missions in 1864 and labored at various mission stations.
Damien volunteered to help the growing number of lepers and In 1873, arrived at a colony on the island of Molokai. He remained there until his death in 1889.
The young priest worked hard to better the living conditions of the people both physically and spiritually. He administered basic medical care to them and built shelters, dug graves, erected a water supply, created a village, and built a primitive hospital.
Damien insisted that the lepers should be accorded the same respect, kindness, and courtesy that was due to all God’s children. And he treated each of them with respect, diligently, washing and bandaging them.
In 1885, the saintly man contracted leprosy, but he did not let that interfere with his working habits. He continued to aid the sick in their needs and changed forever the manner in which those with leprosy were viewed.
At the time of his death on April 15, 1889, Damien was aided in his work by three priests and three Franciscan sisters. He was beatified on June 4, 1995, by Pope John Paul II, who called him a “Servant of Humanity.” Father Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.
PRAYER: God, light and Shepherd of souls, you established Blessed Damien as Priest in Your Church to feed Your flock by his word and form it by his example. Help us through his intercession to keep the Faith he taught by his word and follow the way he showed by his example. Amen.