Damien, Father

Damien, Father

Damien, Father (dāˈmēən, dämyăNˈ) (Damien De Veuster), 1840–89, Belgian missionary priest and saint, originally named Jozef De Veuster. He went to Hawaii (1864) as a Picpus Father (Father of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary). He was ordained (1864) in Honolulu and worked among the islanders for several years. In 1873, at his request, he was sent to the lepers' colony on Molokai, where he labored until his death from leprosy. Attention was called to Father Damien by a tract in his defense by Robert Louis Stevenson, An Open Letter to the Reverend Dr. Hyde, addressed to a minister who had made some slanderous insinuations against Father Damien shortly after his death. In 1936 his body was removed in great state from Molokai to Antwerp. He was canonized in 2009.


See biography by G. Daws (1973).

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Damien, Father (b. Joseph Damien de Veuster)

(1840–89) Catholic priest, missionary; born in Belgium. A member of the Fathers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, he went to Hawaii as a missionary (1864). In 1873 he asked his order to send him to the island of Molokai, Hawaii, where there was a leper colony. He served as both priest and doctor to the lepers there. In 1884 he discovered that he himself had leprosy but he stayed on and died there. Hawaii placed his statue in the U.S. Capitol.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.