by Patricia Mathson
CLICK HERE for a fun activity page about St. Damien De Veuster.
It was a sad time for people who became sick with leprosy in Hawaii in the 1800s. They were sent away from their families and friends for the rest of their lives. Even children were among those exiled to the island of Molokai. Father Damien, a Catholic priest, volunteered to live and work on Molokai and made a tremendous difference in the lives of the people.
Person of Faith
Damien de Veuster was from Belgium and his name was Joseph. He entered a religious congregation and chose the name Damien. His brother was in the same religious order and planned to go to Hawaii as a missionary. When his brother became sick, Damien took his place. He went to Hawaii and was ordained a priest in 1864.
Served the People
In 1873, Fr. Damien volunteered to go to Molokai to serve the people who were sick with leprosy and so lived there in exile. This disease had been brought to Hawaii by visitors and became an epidemic. Father Damien did all he could to make life better on Molokai. He celebrated Mass and prayed with the people. He bandaged their wounds and helped them grow food. He built houses, schools, churches, and hospitals for the people.
Father Damien Becomes Sick
Eventually Fr. Damien got sick with leprosy and died on Molokai in 1889. Today this illness, now called Hansen’s disease, is curable with medication, and people who suffer the disease no longer live in exile.
Saint Damien de Veuster was canonized in 2009. He is the patron saint of Hawaii. People around the world celebrate the life and example of this compassionate person.
What Can We Do?
* Let’s talk about St. Damien de Veuster. Where did he go? Who were the people he helped? Why were the people he helped sent away? What did he do for them? How can we be like him? How can we reach out to people who are sick?
* Let’s read about how Jesus had compassion for others. We can read Luke 5:17-28, about Jesus curing a man whose friends brought him to Jesus. Then we can role play the story as it is read from the Gospel. (Children can act as the crowd, the man who couldn’t walk, his friends, the Pharisees, and Jesus.)
* Let’s make get-well cards to give to people who are sick. (Use construction paper folded in half to make a card. Then decorate the front with foam stickers, such as flowers and butterflies, or draw pictures with markers. Put a short and cheerful message inside and sign your first name.)
Lord Jesus, open our hearts to people who are struggling in the world today. Help us to see you in the faces of people in need. Show us how to serve people who are sick, just as St. Damien did. May we bring hope to the lives of others by our words and actions. Amen.
Patricia Mathson has many years experience in faith formation as a DRE and holds a Master of Religious Education degree. She is currently the children’s ministry coordinator at Hope Family Center in Des Moines, IA. She is the author of ten books with the latest titled 70 Sacrament Starters for Children (Twenty-Third Publications).
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This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, February 2010.
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