Father Damien of Molokai
Damien of Molokai, born "Jozef De Veuster" in Tremelo, Belgium (January 3, 1840 - Molokai, April 15, 1889). Better known as Father Damien was a Belgian Picpus-priest and missionary, who became famous through his work with leprosy patients. Now he is the patron saint of lepers and AIDS patients. It is celebrated on 10 May.
He was born as the seventh child in a farming family with eight brothers and sisters. In his eighth year, he lost a sister to cholera. When he was 15 years old he went to the farm and work in his father's grain trade, but he really wanted to be a priest "for Our Lord and God Jesus Christ." He went to the College of Braine-le-Comte, and then joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Leuven, in which he got the name of brother Damien, after the holy doctor Damianus. He became a Picpus Brother on October 7, 1860, following his brother.
After his studies, Damien was given permission to work as a missionary on the Hawaiian Islands. That way he fulfilled the dream of his brother, who could not go because he had typhus. He arrived on March 19, 1864, in Honolulu. He was ordained as a priest in the "Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace (Honolulu)" on May 21, 1864. He first worked in the Puna district of Hawaii. He then worked as an itinerant missionary and worked in the sprawling district Kohala-Hamakua. He also worked in various parishes on the island of Oahu.
On May 10, 1873, he arrived on Molokai, where at that moment 816 lepers stayed on the bare Kalaupapa peninsula, cut off from the rest of the island by a steep rock face. He reorganized the wild community, began the construction of a church and the construction of roads. Besides his work as a priest, he also assumed the role of a doctor, carpenter, nurse, funeral director and he even made coffins and dug graves. His arrival was a turning point for the colony, laws were now respected, there were decent houses, he built two leprosy villages and a school. The hygienic and material living conditions improved, and he founded a flourishing center of Christianity by the parish of St. Filomena enterprise. At that time, the colony numbered 800 to 1,000 lepers.
But the money disappeared in the general mission treasury. The Church of England sent food, medicine and clothing. This was also partly due to the many begging letters Damien wrote himself and f which one was printed in the British press. As a result, the world's first collection for charity started.