St. Damien of Molokai (1840-1889)
With heartfelt abandonment, he gave his life to serve “the least of these.” Born in Tremelo, Belgium to a farming family, Damien had to leave school at the age of thirteen in order to assist on the family farm. He entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary with the ardent desire to be a missionary. When his brother, also of the same Congregation, fell ill and could no longer go to Hawaii, Damien volunteered to go in his place. Shortly after arriving in Hawaii, Damien was ordained a priest. After almost a decade of ministry, Damien volunteered to fulfill the request of his bishop for a priest to serve the leper colony on the island of Molokai (an isolation project established by the Government). Upon his arrival, Damien met utter lawlessness and despair. However, Damien sought to restore order and dignity to the island and its inhabitants. For one thing he actually dared to touch the lepers and tend to them himself, something previous priests, and even doctors, would not do. To the dead, Damien gave dignity by ensuring a proper burial. And to the dying and diseased, as they all were, Damien restored dignity through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Through the love and leadership Damien brought to the leper colony, this once image of Hell was transformed into a heavenly society. After over a decade of service among his dear lepers, Damien’s union with them became complete as he contracted the disease himself.
Father of mercy, who gave us in Saint Damien a shining witness of love for the poorest and most abandoned, grant that, by his intercession, as faithful witnesses of the heart of your Son Jesus, we too may be servants of the most needy and rejected.