Hard to set aside talk of saints today when a new one with American ties will soon be named: Father Damien, a missionary priest from Belgium who cared for lepers in Hawaii in the 19th century before contracting the disease himself and dying at age 49. Pope Benedict XVI, who canonized Padre Gaetano Catanoso in 2005 in his first-such ceremony, cleared the way this week for Father Damien.
Hawai’i magazine.com reports: :“Father Damien—born Jozef de Veuster in 1840—arrived in Honolulu from Belgium in 1864. Working with Catholic missionaries, he was eventually moved by the plight of thousands of Hawaii leprosy patients sent by government order to Molokai’s isolated Kalaupapa peninsula. Father Damien moved to Molokai in 1873 to live among the sufferers and minister to them. He would spend the rest of his life on the island. After contracting leprosy—now known as Hansen’s disease—he died in 1889.”