Father Damien leper colony Kalaupapa
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Sold Date: 04/01/2008
Channel: Online Auction
Category: Ethnic, Folk & Native American Art
10 differant stamps depicting the life of Life of Father Damienfrom the 1930's with original folder No person is as central to the history of Kalawao and Kalaupapa as Joseph De Veuster, or, as he is best known to the world, Father Damien. He arrived during the early days of Kalawao's history, when people with Hansen's disease were being rounded up throughout the Hawaiian Islands and shipped to the isolated settlement on Moloka`i.
Joseph De Veuster was born in Tremeloo, Belgium, in 1840. Like his older brother Pamphile, Joseph became a priest in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts. Pamphile was to serve as a missionary in the far distant "Sandwich Islands," but when it came time for him to depart he was too ill to go. His brother Joseph went in his place.
He arrived in Honolulu on March 19, 1864. T he was ordained in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace on May 31 and took the name of Damien. His first calling was on the big island of Hawai`i, w he spent eight years. He often traveled great distances to minister to the people of his districts of Puna, followed by Kohala and Hamakua. In 1873 he learned of the need for priests to serve the 700 Hansen's disease victims confined on the island of Moloka`i. He and three other priests volunteered to go in succession. Damien was the first, and soon he was on a boat carrying cattle and 50 patients bound for Kalawao.
Damien was the most famous but not the first caregiver or religious worker to arrive at Kalawao. He followed Congregational ministers, Catholic priests, Mormon elders, and family and friends of patients who went voluntarily to Kalawao to help. Slowly, Kalawao became a place to live rather than a place to die, for Father Damien offered hope. He spoke the Hawaiian language. Assisted by patients, he built houses, constructed a water system, and planted trees. He also organized schools, bands, and choirs. He provided medical care for the living and buried the dead. He expanded St. Philomena Catholic Church . Not a "retiring" personality, Damien did not hesitate to badger the Hawaiian government and his church for more resources. These efforts attracted worldwide attention, resulting in a heightened awareness of the disease and the plight of its victims.
Father Damien had lived in Kalawao 12 years when it was confirmed that he had contracted Hansen's disease. Although the disease is not highly contagious, Damien had not been careful about hygiene. Over the years he had done nothing to separate himself from his people. He dipped his fingers in the poi bowl shared with other patients. He shared his pipe. And he did not always wash his hands after bandaging open sores.
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