St. Damien of Molokai, was born in rural Belgium in 1840, the youngest of seven children. During his youth he felt a calling to become a Catholic missionary, an urge that prompted him to join the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. His superiors originally intended to send Damien's brother, a member of the same congregation, to Hawaii. But he became sick, and Damien arranged to take his place. He arrived in Hawaii in 1864, and was ordained as a priest on the island of Hawaii two months later. Moved by the miserable condition of the lepers whom the Hawaiian government had deported to Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai, he volunteered to take charge of the settlement. Damien, known for his compassion, provided spiritual, physical, and emotional comfort to those suffering from the debilitating and incurable disease. He served as both pastor and physician to the colony and undertook many projects to better the conditions there. He improved water and food supplies and housing and founded two orphanages, receiving help from other priests for only 6 of his 16 years on Molokai. In 1884 he contracted leprosy and refused to leave for treatment. Fr. Damien continued his work, despite his illness, which slowly took over his body. He derived strength from prayer and devotion. He often went to the cemetery to pray the Rosary or spent time in the presence of the Eucharist. "It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation," he wrote. Fr. Damien succumbed to leprosy on April 15, 1889. He was first buried nearby, then his remains were transferred to Belgium in 1936. His right hand was returned to Hawaii in 1995 to be reburied in his original grave at Molokai.
Saint Damien, you ministered to those in despair and isolation.
I call upon you to open my heart and mind, to care for the poor, the sick, the weary, and those forgotten. Bestow upon me the inner strength of faith, and unconditional compassion to be a disciple of Christ. As a Spartan, I come before you a humble servant of God, bless me with the spirit of your love and instill in me the touch of healing and grace that you yourself possessed. Amen