A man who amassed great spiritual treasure on earth, Father Damien (1840-1889) was born Joseph de Veuster in Tremeloo, Belgium. This heroic Catholic missionary traveled to Hawaii in 1864 to prepare for his ordination as a Sacred Hearts priest.
"Turn all your thoughts and aspirations to heaven," he advised. "Work hard to secure for yourself a place there forever."
In 1873, in an act of compassionate selflessness, he volunteered to bring spiritual guidance and comfort to the abandoned lepers of Kalaupapa on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i.
"Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine would be intolerable," Father Damien believed.
For 16 years, Damien ministered to those who suffered with Hansen's Disease, called by Hawaiians Ma’i Ho’oka’ awale, "the separating sickness." He worked hard and earnestly for his parish, St. Philomena. When he contracted the disease three years before his death, Damien called it "a shortcut to heaven."
“I am gently going to my grave. It is the will of God, and I thank Him very much for letting me die of the same disease and in the same way as my lepers. I am very satisfied and very happy," he said.
Today the remote northern peninsula of Kalaupapa is a National Historic Site, an area of breathtaking cliffs and beauty. In October 2009, Pope Benedict XVI elevated Father Damien to sainthood.
Sow love, reap goodness.