150 years ago Damien de Veuster arrived in Hawaii and began a life of service and sacrifice that inspires others today to follow in his footsteps.
Saint Damien brought comfort to the broken and solace to the abandoned. The Hawaii's Catholic Diocese says his strength and determination are needed more than ever to deal with modern maladies in today's world.
“We have the homeless situation in Hawaii. Prisoners, they are still people. They still have dignity and value. Immigrants, we have the disparity between rich and poor, a lot of schools run by the church and struggling to help the poorer families. Something has to be done there and Damien keeps us focused to get out there and do it,” said Provincial Superior Jonathan Hurrell.
After 16 years in Kalawao and Kalaupapa, Father Damien contracted leprosy; now called Hansen's disease. He still continued to minister on the island until his death in 1889.
Today, Father Damien is celebrated for helping a community all but forgotten.
“Once he arrived he saw they really needed some stable influence in their lives – someone who would care for them and not abandon them as everyone else had seemed to have done, so he stayed,” said Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu.
“Damien is not just for the church or for Catholics or Christians, he is for everybody. His message is for everybody, for me. He puts human back into humanity,” said Hurrell.
Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict in 2009.
Deacon Ajit Singh, who was ordained Saturday as a priest, felt honored to join his brethren in serving the community.
“I feel very excited. I belong to follow the spirit of Saint Damien,” said Singh.
Next year the congregation will celebrate the 175th anniversary of Saint Damien's birth.