ST. DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI: Missionary to Lepers

Today is the Feast Day of St. Damien of Molokai.

Busy and need the cliff notes? I got you. Here’s what you need to know about St. Damien...

Jozef de Veuster was born January 3, 1840 in Belgium. He grew up helping on his family farm until he was old enough to enter the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

He took the name Damien, after a sixth century martyr.

Br. Damien had a desire to do missionary work and had a fondness for St. Francis Xavier and his missionary work.

Br. Damien was sent to Hawaii in 1864.

In 1873 Fr. Damien volunteered to go and serve a quarantined colony of lepers on the island of Molokai. He volunteered knowing that leprosy was contagious and he would in all likelihood die there.

When he arrived he found the colony in chaos. Poverty, alcoholism, violence, and promiscuity were rampant.

Fr. Damien instituted order and soon the colony was up and thriving despite their health conditions. New houses, a new school, and a new orphanage were built. They also built a new Church, St. Philomena, which still stands today.

Fr. Damien was ordered by his superiors to avoid contact with the lepers. Damien ignored the orders and fully embedded with the colony serving them wholeheartedly for 16 years.

In 1885 Fr. Damien contracted leprosy.

Despite his illness he continued to serve the people of Molokai up until his death in 1889.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995. His sainthood was confirmed in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. His Feast Day is May 10th.

Saint Damien is the patron saint of people suffering from leprosy.

St. Damien, ora pro nobis!

“Its marks are seen on my left cheek and ear, and my eyebrows are beginning to fall. I shall soon be completely disfigured. I have no doubt whatever of the nature of my illness, but I am calm and resigned and very happy in the midst of my people. The good God knows what is best for my sanctification. I daily repeat from my heart, ‘Thy will be done.’”
-St. Damien of Molokai