Father Damien and His Journey

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Father Damien and His Journey

Between 1866 and 1873, seven hundred and ninety-seven lepers arrived on Molokai. Almost half of them died. Public indignation mounted, and the Board of Health sought to improve conditions. In April of 1873, Walter Gibson, a politician at the time, wrote a newspaper article that made a bold request. It called for a noble Christian priest, preacher, or Sister who would sacrifice their own life to console the lepers on Molokai. There were several men in Hawaii who were willing to respond, and one of them was Father Damien, a charitable Catholic priest with the Sacred Hearts order. It may have been presentiment or prophecy, but Father Damien had known for some time that he would eventually go to Molokai.

When Father Damien arrived on Molokai, it was in a state of disarray. Sacred Hearts had previously built a tiny chapel, dedicated to St. Philomena, but attendance was scarce. There was no government on the island, and the lepers' days were filled with drinking, crime, and a general sense of hopelessness. Father Damien chose to rectify this in many ways.

During the first weeks upon arrival, Father Damien took normal precautions to avoid contagion. He settled comfortably under a tree outside of the tiny chapel, and a large rock on the side of the tree served as his dinner table. But if Damien protected his body from the disease, there was nothing he could do to protect his eyes or ears from the shock of the contact with the lepers. Gathering his courage, he began to approach the

lepers one by one. He embraced them, dined with them, and he cleaned and bandaged their wounds. On his first visit to a young girl, he found that worms had eaten at one whole side of her body. Now this...

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...happy to possess. I personally don't know if I would have been able to give so much of myself. And in the end, when his peers would not even comfort him, he continued to do what he could to help the people. It would have different if he hadn't known that he would have to die. But he did, and still chose to go. Even when death was upon him, he worked tirelessly until he no longer had the strength. To me, that is amazing.


Works Cited

Kalaupapa National Historic Park. Father Damien of Kalaupapa. 14 June 2000.


Sacred Hearts Community. Blessed Father Damien: Servant of Humanity.

2 June 2000. 15 June 2000. .

Architect of the Capitol, Office of the Curator. Father Damien. Jan. 15, 1997.

16 June 2000. .

Damien Memorial High School. Father Damien de Veuster. June 9, 2000.

16 June 2000.

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