Pope Benedict declared a priest who lived with lepers a saint this Sunday. The priest (Saint Damien) who lived in Hawaii, worked closely with lepers in the 1800s.
Jozef De Veuster, who was called Saint Damien, dedicated himself to helping those with leprosy, even at great personal cost to himself. St. Damien’s deeds mostly focused on a colony of lepers who lived in Molokai, Hawaii.
President Barack Obama noted that his work set the precedent for those who are dedicated to helping the AIDS patients of today. Obama, who was born in Hawaii, said:
“I recall many stories from my youth about his tireless work there to care for those suffering from leprosy who had been cast out…In our own time as millions around the world suffer from disease, especially the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, we should draw on the example of Fr. Damien’s resolve in answering the urgent call to heal and care for the sick.”
After spending several years at Molokai, St. Damien grew ill. As Pope Benedict put it, he became a “leper among lepers.” He passed away in 1889. Now, his altruistic work is recognized even beyond the religious world. A statue of Jozef De Veuster even stands in U.S. Congress.
I’ve included a video about a Hawaiian woman who prayed to Father Damien while battling cancer. The Vatican considers her sudden recovery a miracle.