Sunday, October 18, 2009
Here we have the recently canonized saint Father Damien, born Jozef De Veuster, officially recognized as a saint on the 11th of this month, and one of a handful of saints who ministered in what is today the United States. Of course, at the time, it was not the United States; Father Damien worked in a leper colony on the Island of Molokai in the Kingdom of Hawaii in the second half of the 19th century. He was a Belgian priest and, at the time, Hawaiian lepers were isolated on the island. I've often wondered if the priests in leper colonies ever contracted leprosy, and Father Damien indeed did contract the disease. However, it's still not clear how leprosy, or Hansen's disease, is spread. It might well be contracted through prolonged close contact, and Father Damien cared for the lepers for fourteen years, subsequently contracting leprosy and succumbing to the disease in 1889.
Father Damien continued caring for the other sick until his death, and is considered a patron saint of those afflicted by Hansen's disease (leprosy), HIV, AIDS, and those who care for the afflicted. He is also the patron saint of the Diocese of Honolulu and Hawaii, and Barack Obama, non surprisingly, issued a statement marking Father Damien's canonization and praising those who care for the sick. Father Damien's feast day is May 10th, and he is celebrated across Hawaii on April 11th.
A very detailed blog on Father Damien is here.
Posted by Rufus at 1:15 PM