Society of St. Damien De Veuster
"The Apostle of the Lepers"
An approved Tax-Exempt IRC Section 501c3, Section 170 Non-Profit Entity by the Internal Revenue Service of the United States of America
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ABOUT ST. DAMIEN DE VEUSTER
When Joseph De Veuster (Jozef "Jef" De Veuster) was born
in Tremelo, Belgium on January 3, 1840, few people in Europe
had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen’s disease.
By the time he died at the age of 49 (April 15, 1889),
people all over the world knew about this disease because of
him. They knew that human compassion could soften the
ravages of this disease.
Forced to quit school at age 13 to work on the family farm,
Joseph, following in the footsteps of his older sisters Eugénie
and Pauline (who had become nuns) and older brother Auguste
(Father Pamphile), he became a "Picpus" Brother (another name
for members of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus
and Mary) on 7 October 1860 and six years later, took the name of a fourth-century physician and martyr: Brother Damianus (Damiaan in Dutch, Damien in French) in his first vows, presumably in reference to the first Saint Damian, an early Christian saint who was said to perform miracles.
His superiors thought that he was not a good candidate for the priesthood because he lacked education. However, he was not considered unintelligent.
Because he learned Latin well from his brother, his superiors decided to allow him to become a priest. During his ecclesiastical studies, Damien prayed daily before a picture of St. Francis Xavier, patron of missionaries, to be sent on a mission.
When his brother Pamphile, a priest in the same congregation, fell ill and was unable to go to the Hawaiian Islands as assigned, Damien quickly volunteered in his place. In May 1864, two months after arriving in his new mission, Damien was ordained a priest in Honolulu and assigned to the island of Hawai’i (known as the “Big Island”).
In 1873, he went to the Hawaiian government’s leper colony on the island of Moloka’i that was set up seven years earlier. Part of a team of four chaplains taking that assignment for three months each year, Damien soon volunteered to remain permanently, caring for the people’s physical, medical, and spiritual needs. In time, he became their most effective advocate to obtain promised government support.
Soon the settlement had new houses and a new church, school, and an orphanage. In addition, he dressed residents' ulcers, built a reservoir, made coffins, dug graves, shared pipes, and ate from his hands with the residents and all the while, providing both medical and emotional support.
Morale improved considerably. A few years later, he succeeded in getting the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, led by Mother Marianne Cope, to help staff this colony in Kalaupapa.
Father Damien contracted Hansen’s disease and died of its complications. As requested, he was buried in Kalaupapa, but in 1936 the Belgian government succeeded in having his body moved to Belgium. Part of Damien’s body was returned to his beloved Hawaiian brothers and sisters after his beatification in 1995.
When Hawai’i became a state in 1959, it selected (Father) Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the US Capitol.
Saint Damien has been described as a "martyr of charity".
He was the tenth person in the United States to be recognized as a
saint by the Catholic Church at the time of his canonization in 2009.
In both the Latin Rite and the Eastern Rites of the Catholic
Church, Saint Damien is venerated as a saint. In the Anglican
Communion, as well as other denominations of Christianity,
Saint Damien is considered the spiritual patron for leprosy and
Father Damien Day, April 15th, the day of his passing, is a
statewide, non-public holiday in Hawai’i. To this day, Saint (Father)
Damien is the patron saint of the Diocese of Honolulu and of the
State of Hawai’i.
Upon his beatification by Pope John Paul II in Rome on
4 June 1995, Blessed Damien was granted a memorial feast day,
which is celebrated on May 10th. Father Damien was canonized by
Pope Benedict XVI on 11 October 2009.
Saint Damien has been recognized by the Catholic Church and all Christian Churches, worldwide as "the Apostle of the Lepers".
We are a Religious Order, under the auspices of the Most Reverend Archbishop M. J. Kimo Keawe.
We pursue a life of Humbleness, Caring, Prayer, Contemplation, and Spirituality while living either in the secular community or in a monastic community to follow the work of Saint Damien.
WHAT WE DO
We are a community of Catholic Christians who seek to find closer communion with God through emulating the life of Saint Damien De Veuster who physically and spiritually cared for those whom time forgot, ignored, abandoned, and brought awareness worldwide by his dedication and unselfishness.
In fellowship, we will work together with all people regardless of race, color, creed, sexuality, health and social status, and we will seek to break down the divisions of religion in the world and the walls of segregation. We pray and work to live in the spirit of Saint Damien.