St Damien of Molokai
Saint Damien is the patron saint of people suffering from leprosy.
St Damien’s Catholic Primary School had previously been known as Dawesville Catholic Primary School. In 2015 the name was changed, in honour of the school’s patron, Saint Damien of Molokai.
The qualities that St Damien showed: courage, loyalty, resilience, compassion and respect are values that are shared by the St Damien’s Catholic Primary School community. Each month a student from each class is awarded the St Damien’s Award for demonstrating these values.
St Damien of Molokai was born to the name Jozef De Veuster in rural Belgium, on January 3, 1840. His family were farmers but he held a passion to serve in the church.
At the age of 13 he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and took the name Damien, after a sixth century martyr.
In 1864, Damien’s brother who was also in the same order of religious, was ordered to Hawaii. But his brother became ill, so Br. Damien, as he was known, offered to go in his place. Whilst at first the brothers were hesitant, they agreed to send Br. Damien in 1864, and he was ordained a priest 2 months after arriving.
In 1866, Hawaii established a leper colony on the Kalaupapa Peninsula. These people still needed spiritual and medical care, so to Fr. Damien discerned his call to serve them. In 1873, Fr. Damien made the trip to be with these people in their colony.
Fr. Damien realised the people needed leadership, so he provided it. He asked people to come together to build houses and schools and eventually the parish church, St. Philomena. He was supposed to only work in the colony for a time then he would be replaced by one of three other volunteers for the work. But the leper colony was to become his permanent home. After working with the people for a time Fr. Damien grew attached to the people and his work. He asked permission to stay at the colony to serve. His request was granted.
Fr Damien contracted leprosy in 1885, after several years of work and he continued his work, despite his illness, which slowly took over his body. He derived strength from prayer and devotion.
After sixteen years in the colony, Fr. Damien succumbed to leprosy on April 15, 1889. He was first buried nearby, then his remains were transferred to Belgium in 1936.
He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Brussels, Belgium on June 4, 1995. His sainthood was confirmed on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. His feast day is May 10.
The day of his passing, April 15, is a minor statewide holiday in Hawaii.