Feast Day:May 10
January 3, 1840, Tremelo, Belgium
April 15, 1889 (aged 49), Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii
June 4, 1995, Rome by Pope John Paul II
shrine Leuven, Belgium (bodily relics), Maui, Hawaii (relics of his hand)
People with leprosy, people with HIV and AIDS, outcasts, the State of Hawaii
Fr. Damien was serving at several parishes on the island of Oahu when he became aware of the public health crisis in Hawaii. Many of his parishoners were among the Hawaiians who became afflicted by diseases brought to the islands by Europeans, American and other foreign sailors. Thousands were dying from influenza, syphilis and other ailments that never before affected Hawaiians, esp. leprosy, known today as Hansen's Disease.
Hawaiian King Kamehameha IV was afraid leprosy would spread so he segregated the lepers by creating a colony, moving them to an isolated settlement on the island of Molokai. The Board of Health provided them with supplies and food but did not yet have the manpower nor resources to provide proper healthcare to the lepers.
His first project was to build the Parish Church of St. Philomena so the people might learn the Catholic faith and have a place to worship Our Lord in the "Blessed Sacrament, (is) indeed the stimulus for us all for me as it should be for you to forsake all worldly ambitions." He taught that "the Eucharist is the bread that gives strength. It is at once the most eloquent proof of His love and the most powerful means to foster His love in us. He gives Himself every day so that our hearts as burning coals may set afire the hearts of the faithful.”