In 1859, Jozef De Veuster began his novitiate with the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, took the name Damien and prayed to be sent on a mission. In 1863, his brother, who was to leave for a Hawaiian mission, fell ill. Damien took his brother’s place, landed in Honolulu and was ordained to the priesthood.
At that time, the Hawaiian government initiated a quarantine to prevent the spread of leprosy, deporting those infected by what was thought to be an incurable disease to the island of Molokai. Bishop Maigret was concerned about the abandoned lepers and felt sure they needed priests, but he did not want to send anyone to Molokai in the name of obedience. Such an assignment was a potential death sentence. In 1873, of the four volunteers, Damien was the first to leave for Molokai.
Damien remained on Molokai and eventually contracted leprosy himself. He died after serving 16 years among the lepers, and is universally known for having freely shared the life of the lepers in quarantine. His departure for Molokai, the announcement of his leprosy and his death impressed his contemporaries of all denominations.
Damien is known as a hero of charity because he identified so closely with the victims of leprosy. With a heart wide open to the most wretched of the lepers, he showed no difference in his approach and in his care. In his ministry and works of charity, he found a place for everyone. Today, St. Damien inspires thousands of believers and others who wish to imitate him and to discover the source of his heroism.
(This narrative is printed on the back of Note Cards. A copy is included with each plaque.)
St. Damien Prayer
Damien, brother on the journey,
happy and generous missionary,
who loved the Gospel more than your own life,
who for love of Jesus left your family,
your security and your dreams,
Teach us to give our lives
with a joy like yours,
to be in solidarity with the outcasts of our world,
to celebrate and contemplate the Eucharist
as the source of our own commitment.
Help us to love to the very end
and in the strength of the Spirit,
to persevere in compassion
for the poor and forgotten
so that we might be
good disciples of Jesus and Mary.
(This prayer is printed on the back of Prayer Cards only.)
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