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Joseph de Veuster was born in 1840 in Belgium, the son of a farmer. At the age of 18, he joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He made his ﬁrst vows in 1859 and took the name Damien, after the ancient physician and martyr. When his older brother became ill and was unable to join the mission endeavor in Hawaii, Damien volunteered to take his place.
As Father Damien began his ministry in Hawaii, leprosy was spreading rapidly throughout the Islands. In 1863, King Kamehameha V ordered those with leprosy to be sent to Kalaupapa, an isolated peninsula on the northern coast of Molokai. There, on the side of the peninsula known as Kalawao, those afﬂicted by the disease were left with no aid.
Damien was among the ﬁrst priests to arrive in Kalawao, and he remained there for the rest of his life, building houses, an orphanage, a church, and a hospital. He ate with those he served, worshipped with them, and invited them into his home. He eventually contracted leprosy, later known as Hansen’s disease, and died in 1889.
Like Father Damien, Marianne Cope aspired to the religious vocation at an early age. She entered the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse, New York, in 1862, and in 1870 she began work as a nurse administrator at St. Joseph’s hospital in Syracuse, where she was criticized for accepting alcoholics and other undesirable patients.
In 1883, she received a letter from a priest in Hawaii asking for help managing the hospitals and ministry to leprosy patients. She arrived in Honolulu in 1883 and immediately took over supervision of the Kaka’ako Branch Hospital, which served as a receiving center for leprosy patients from all over the islands. She also opened a care center for the healthy children of leprosy victims.
In 1884, she met Father Damien, and in 1886, she alone ministered to him when his illness made him unwelcome among church and government leaders. She continued her work with hospitals and sufferers of Hansen’s disease until her death in 1918.
I God of compassion, we bless thy Name for the ministries of Damien and Marianne, who ministered to the lepers abandoned on Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. Help us, following their examples, to be bold and loving in confronting the incurable plagues of our time, that thy people may live in health and hope; through Jesus Christ,who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II God of compassion, we bless your Name for the ministries of Damien and Marianne, who ministered to the lepers abandoned on Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. Help us, following their examples, to be bold and loving in confronting the incurable plagues of our time, that your people may live in health and hope; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 4:9–13
Preface of a Saint (1)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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