The Story of Father Damien A Humble Man and Saint Feast Day May 10th Once upon a time in the village of Tremelo, in the northern region of Belgium, also known as Flanders, lived the hardworking De Veuster family. They grew grain on their large farm and sold it to make a good living. Francis and Catherine De Veuster were blessed by the birth of their second youngest child, when Joseph was born January 3, 1840. Joseph loved to listen to stories of saints, martyrs and heroes of the Bible that his mother read to them at night. Growing up, Joseph and his brothers and sisters helped do chores on the farm. The chores helped Joseph grow into a strong young man. Joseph loved to have fun, like skating on the Dyle River when it froze. He loved mischief, but loved his family most of all! Joseph made his First Communion on Palm Sunday, 1850 when he was 10 years old. At age 13 Joseph finished his studies at the village school. He was going to stay at home and work on the farm for the next four years. Joseph worked hard many hours a day, but he was happy. On May 15, 1858, at the age of 18, Joseph traveled to Braine-leComte to learn the French language and commercial business to help his family farm grow. Joseph was a very good student who loved to learn. He impressed his teachers with his hard work and his good grades. Joseph had always been close to God. He was very happy when his sister Pauline became a nun and his brother Auguste wanted to study to become a priest. Joseph visited his brother at school. The more he talked to his brother about God the more he wanted to become a priest, too. Mama and Papa De Veuster were happy and sad when the letter Joseph wrote them on Christmas Day told them he wanted to became a priest. They were happy he loved God and sad because they would see little of him. Papa took Joseph to the monastery in Louvain for him to study for the priesthood. As his brother took Pamphile for his religious name, Joseph took Damien as his religious name. Joseph joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary founded by Father Pierre Coudrin and Mother Henriette d’Aymar de la Chevalerie on Christmas Day, 1800. This is the same religious order which founded Saint Joseph Church and Saint Joseph School. Joseph was now called Brother Damien and he had to study Latin, Philosophy and Theology. His brother Pamphile helped him every day. Damien also prayed to God for His help. Damien went to study at the Congregation School in Paris, France. Brother Damien made professed his vows when he was only 20 years old on October 7, 1860. One day Damien heard a missionary bishop speak. Damien was inspired by this priest who brought the word of God to people in far away lands who had never heard of God. He wanted to do this special work, too. Brother Damien got his wish. He was to take his brother’s place when Pamphile became very sick with typhoid fever. Damien would travel around the world to the sandwich Islands which today we call Hawaii. It was hard for Damien to say good bye to his family. He would write to them often, but would never see them again. Damien spent 4 ½ months on the ship R.W. Wood as it crossed the Atlantic, Cape Horn- the tip of South America to the South Pacific. At first he was seasick, but soon he was preparing communion for daily mass. Damien prayed every day for their safe arrival. Finally, on March 18, 1864 they sighted land. The plants, animals, people and land were very strange to Damien. He had to learn the language of the native people. After further study, Damien was ordained a priest on May 21, 1864 at the Queen of Peace Cathedral in Honolulu. Damien wrote his family and his brother about this day and many days that followed during his years in Hawaii. Damien did a very special thing. He volunteered to go to Molokai, the “land of the cliffs’ where people with Hansen’s disease lived. Hansen’s disease was an awful disease which infected a person’s nerves and caused deformities of the body. The law of Segregation of 1865 said people with Hansen’s disease had to live away from those who did not have it. Damien was happy to serve others just as Jesus did. Damien showed the people how to believe in God and to make their lives better. Often, the people were too sick to build homes, to care for the sick and even bury the dead. He rebuilt Saint Philomena’s Church which still stands today. He helped them bring fresh water down from the mountains. Damien lived on the island for 17 years. Damien was happy to care for God’s people. Money and supplies were finally being sent to help the island’s people. Princess Liliuokalani of Hawaii visited Father Damien in 1881. She sent him a jeweled cross to recognize him for the good work he was doing. Mother Marianne Cope and 7 of the Franciscan Sisters arrived to help carry on Father Damien’s work. Joseph Dutton, a convert to our faith, also came to help Father Damien. There was still so much work to be done! Sadly, Father Damien became sick in September 1888. He continued to work until his body no longer let him. He died April 15, 1889 at the age of 49. People all over the world were sad at this news and remembered him. Pope John Paul II beatified Father Damien in 1995. He was canonized November 11, 2009. Father Damien became Saint Damien. His feast day is May 10th and celebrates the day he set foot on Molokai. Today, you can visit his grave at St. Philomena’s Church on Molokaii. His statute stands in the National Statuary in Washington, D.C. and another outside the Hawaiian Capitol. Intentions The Response is: Saint Damien pray for us. • May we grow in our love of God as Father Damien teaches us. R May we use our gifts and talents to serve others. R May we share our material gifts with the sick or less fortunate. R May God continue to bless the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and the work they do. R May we honor the memory of Father Damien during the school year. R For our own silent intentions. R Let us Pray St. Damien’s Prayer Saint Damien, you learned to love others with the heart of Jesus. You saw dignity and beauty of each person you served, where others saw only pain and misery. You embraced a new land and culture and helped people to have a new hope. Pray for me that I might see others as Jesus sees them— as my brothers and sisters. May I recognize the needs of the people around me and be willing to help, even when it is difficult, just as you did. When I experience challenges or suffering, pray for me that I may always be courageous and hope-filled. And may my own heart always be filled with the love of Jesus and Mary. Amen Thank you for coming today to remember Father Damien De Veuster, a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.