Father Damien in 1873
Father Damien (1840-1889) - A Belgian Catholic Priest
In 1863 Father Damien, a young Belgian priest, went to teach Christianity to the people of some of the Pacific Islands.
One day in 1873 he discovered that the lepers of the Hawaiian Islands were not being helped in their sickness but were being sent to one of the islands, Molokai, and merely left there to die. He volunteered to go to live among them, and that very day embarked on a ship for Molokai, knowing full well that he might catch the disease of leprosy from the people he was going to help. Horrified by the dreadful conditions he found on the island, he settled down among the lepers. He taught them Christianity and together they built a church. He helped them to build better houses and, as there was no proper water supply, he and the people who were well enough dug a trench and laid pipes to bring clean water from a lake.
After about ten years Father Damien realised that he had caught leprosy. For another six years he continued his work and was a happy man in spite of his illness, for his example had encouraged a few more helpers to come to the lonely island. After his death in 1889 they continued his work.
Before he became a priest Father Damien's name was Joseph de Veuster.
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