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.
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May we use our gifts and talents to serve others.
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May we share our material gifts with the sick or less fortunate.
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May God continue to bless the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts
of Jesus and Mary and the work they do.
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May we honor the memory of Father Damien during the school year. R
For our own silent intentions.
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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.
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The Story of Father Damien