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 "the happiest missionary in the world.”
Fr. Damian served for sixteen years among the lepers, and died on April 15th 1889.
O Father of mercy, who gavest us in Saint Damien a shining witness of love for the poorest and most abandoned: grant that, by his intercession; as faithful witnesses of the heart of thy Son Jesus, we too may be servants of the most needy and rejected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.