In 1863, Damien’s brother was supposed to leave for the mission in the
At that time, the Hawaiian Government decided on a very harsh measure which they thought would stop the spread of the dreaded disease of leprosy, or Hansen’s disease. It was decided that anyone who contracted this disease would be taken to the neighboring
He brought hope to this place of despair. He became a source of consolation and encouragement for the lepers. He became their pastor, the doctor of their souls and of their bodies, without any distinction of race or religion. He gave a voice to the voiceless, he built a community where the joy of being together and openness to the love of God gave people new reasons for living. He saw the beauty and dignity of each person, no matter how deformed and grotesque their outward appearance.
After Father Damien contracted the disease in 1885, he was able to identify completely with them. He spoke of "we lepers…" Father Damien was, above all, a witness of the love of God for His people. He got his strength from the Eucharist: "It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation..." He said that he was It is there that he found for himself and for others the support and the encouragement, the consolation and the hope, he could, with a deep faith, communicate to the lepers. All that made him "the happiest missionary in the world.”
Fr. Damian served for sixteen years among the lepers, and died on April 15th 1889.
O God, by whose grace thy servant St. Damien of Molokai, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.