For more than a century, Catholics and non-Catholics alike have been sharing the heroic story of St. Damien of Molokai (1840-89), a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who left his native Belgium for the community’s mission in Hawaii. He spent the last 16 years of his life ministering to the lepers confined to the Kalaupapa and Kalawao regions of the island of Molokai, ultimately contracting and dying of the disease himself.
Damien was canonized in 2009; the Church celebrates his feast day on May 10. Closely linked to Fr. Damien is Sr. Marianne Cope (1838-1918), a Franciscan sister from New York who came with a group of sisters and nursed Fr. Damien as he was dying, then continuing his work on the island.
Fr. Herman Gomes is pastor of St. Ann Church in Kaneohe on the eastern side of Oahu—the same parish at which he served as an altar boy in his youth—and for 38 years has been a Sacred Hearts father, the same community to which Damien belonged. He has studied Damien’s life extensively, and is frequently called upon by the island’s Catholics to share the story of the saint. He has also traveled to Molokai to celebrate Mass and provide the sacraments for the few remaining patients—they prefer not to be referred to as “lepers”—who remain on Molokai by choice.
Read more at Catholic World Report.
Further reading: Continuing St. Damien and St. Marianne’s Legacy of Mercy