Monument Valley color study

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Father Damien

Although I am not a catholic, I still get joy from the news that the Vatican has announced that the Belgian priest Father Damien is on the fast track to sainthood. Damien, born Jozef de Veuster, lived and worked among the estimated eight thousand lepers in Kalaupapa on the hawaiian island of Molokai, eventually contracting the disease himself and dying in 1889 at the age of 49. I have always admired the courage and love shown by this man. He has become a patron saint for those affected by H.I.V..

I am not entirely sure how the process works, but believe it takes two miracles to qualify for sainthood and the second miracle was verified in the last several years.

From Wikipedia: King Kamehameha V quarantined the lepers of the kingdom and moved them to a settlement colony known as Kalaupapa on the north side of the island of Moloka‘i. Kalawao County, where the village is situated, is divided from the rest of the island by a steep mountain ridge, and even today the only land access is by a mule track. The Royal Board of Health provided the quarantined people with supplies and food but did not yet have the resources to offer proper healthcare. According to documents from the time, the Kingdom of Hawaii did not plan the settlement to be in disarray but did not provide sufficient resources and medical help.[12] They planned on the inhabiting sufferers to grow their own crops, but due to the nature of the environment and their sickness, it was nearly impossible. By 1868, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), "Drunken and lewd conduct prevailed. The easy-going, good-natured people seemed wholly changed." [13]
Kalawao Catholic Church.

While Monsignor Louis Maigret, vicar apostolic, believed that the lepers at the very least needed a priest to minister to their needs, he realized that this assignment could potentially be a death sentence. After prayerful thought, Damien asked Monsignor Maigret for permission to go to Molokai. On 10 May 1873, Father Damien arrived at the secluded settlement at Kalaupapa, where Bishop Maigret presented him to the 816 lepers living there as "one who will be a father to you, and who loves you so much that he does not hesitate to become one of you; to live and die with you."[citation needed] Damien's first course of action was to build a church and establish the Parish of Saint Philomena. His role was not limited to being a priest: he dressed ulcers, built homes and beds, built coffins and dug graves[14].

Damien's arrival is seen by some as a turning point for the community. Under his leadership, basic laws were enforced, shacks became painted houses, working farms were organized and schools were erected.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You can learn a bit more about Damien de Veuster of Molokai at: