BLESSED FATHER DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI
Every age has its stories of heroic men and women whose faith challenges them to reach out in service to alleviate the sufferings of their brothers and sisters. The name of Father Damien de Veuster certainly deserves to be listed among them.
Born Joseph de Vesteur in 1840 in the village of Tremelo in Flanders, Belgium, Joseph was the seventh of eight siblings. While his father had hopes that he would take over the family business of farming, Joseph felt drawn to the religious life. He joined the Sacred Hearts Community at the age of 18. Following his studies for the priesthood, he went to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was ordained in 1864 and took the name of Damien.
At the age of thirty-three, Father Damien moved to the island of Molokai to live and work among people with leprosy. He established a total Christian community, building houses, schools, hospitals and churches. But above all, he turned rejection into acceptance--despair into hope--degradation into dignity. His love for others was real, and he put his love into action. He began all of his sermons with, "We lepers," showing his solidarity with his people. By 1884, he had contracted Hansen's diesease (leprosy). The ravages of the disease slowly disfigured his face, hands, and body, and caused violent coughing fits and internal pain. After 16 years of working with and serving his faithful community, Father Damien died on April 15, 1889. He was buried under a pandanus tree next to the church he had helped build, a place he had often rested when first arriving on the island and had no other shelter. It wasn't until 1995 that the incredible work Father Damien had done was recognized officially by the Church, resulting in a beatification by Pope John Paul II.
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"When there's a missing piece to the puzzle, you find the piece. If you can't find it, you make it," - Father Louis J. Tesconi
Father Louis J. Tesconi founded Damien Ministries in 1987 and the rest is history.