The feast day of St. Damien of Molokai is celebrated on May 10. He is the patron saint of leprosy and outcasts.
St. Damien of Molokai was born Josef de Veuster on Jan. 3, 1840 in Treinelo, Belgium. His parents were farmers. He attended college at Braine-le-Comte. Josef became a novitiate at the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He took the name of Damien when he made his vows. As a missionary he arrived in Honolulu in 1864. He was ordained a priest on May 1864.
Hawaii was in the midst of a health crisis; primarily, influenza, syphilis and leprosy. The king of Hawaii, Kink Kamehameha IV created a leper colony on the island of Molokai. Fr. Damien requested to be sent to Molokai to tend to their spiritual needs. He arrived at Kalaupapa on May 10, 1873, where he cared for 600 lepers.
Fr. Damien built the Parish Church of St. Philomena where he preached and taught the Catholic faith. He restored pride and dignity to the people in the settlement. He organized a band, horse riding and choir. He provided comfort to the people on the island for 16 years serving as priest, doctor and home builder. He built their coffins and dug their graves.
Father Damien said,
“My greatest pleasure is to go there (the cemetery) to say my beads, and meditate on that unending happiness which so many of them are already enjoying.”
Fr. Damien had a profound faith in the Holy Eucharist, believing his strength came from receiving the Eucharist on a daily basis. In 1885 he contracted the illness of leprosy, yet he continued to serve the people of the settlement. He died April 15, 1889 at the age of 49. St. Damien is known as the Apostle of the Lepers.
“Without the constant presence of Our Divine Master upon the altar in my poor chapels, I never could have persevered casting my lot with the lepers of Molokai”
Quote of St. Damien of Molokai
May is the Month of Our Lady