Saturday, October 9, 2010
Damien of Molokai
On my way to the beach one day on the Big Island of Hawaii I saw this little church and I stopped to check it out. One of the stained glass windows is of a man I much admired when I was young. We called him "Damien the Leper." His last name is de Vuester. October 11 a year ago he was canonized Saint Damien of Molokai.
In 1865 when he came from Belgium to work as a missionary in Hawaii, his first parish was on the Big Island. This church was the third church built to serve that parish. Not many years ago it was in the path of lava from an erupting volcano. The parishioners valued its connection with St. Damien so they moved it to its present location.
In 1873 Damien volunteered to move to an isolated peninsula on the island of Molokai to minister to a colony of about 800lepers that the government had quarantined there. He spent 16 years caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of the lepers before he got the disease himself and eventually died.
He wrote to his brother in Europe, "I make myself a leper with the lepers to win them all to Jesus Christ."