Father Damien or Saint Damien of Molokai died today in the year 1889. He was canonized on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. He is the patron saint of the Diocese of Honolulu and of Hawaiʻi. Because we are still in the Lenten season the Church does not celebrate this great saint although today is still celebrated statewide in Hawaii as Father Damien Day. This wonderful priest was born January 3, 1840 as Jozef De Veuster and he was originally from Belgium. He was a missionary of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He is recognized and honored for his ministry to people with leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease) in Hawaii.
Father Damien died after sixteen years of caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of lepers who had been placed under a government-sanctioned medical quarantine on the island of Molokaʻi in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. Father Damien eventually contracted and died of leprosy and is considered a “martyr of charity”. He is the ninth person recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church to have lived, worked, and died in the United States.