Leper Priest of Moloka'i

Leper Priest of Moloka'i

The Father Damien Story

Book - 2000
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Leper Priest of Moloka'i traces the life of Father Damien from his boyhood in rural Belgium to his death at the leper settlement after sixteen years of remarkable accomplishments. Damien overcame major obstacles to become a Catholic priest and serve as a missionary in Hawai'i. To his spiritual ministry he added the practice of medicine and the skill of a master builder of chapels, churches, and houses, both professions that he taught himself. He decried human suffering, and in his medical practice he emulated the example of his patron saint, Saint Damien the physician, who led many to Christianity by the example of the Good Samaritan.

This biography presents and analyzes much new information about Damien and his years in Hawai'i. The correspondence between Damien, his colleagues in the Catholic church, his Protestant supporters, and agents of the Hawaiian Board of Health gives a fuller understanding of the extent of Damien's work at the settlement and the tensions underlying his relations with Church bureaucrats, who were both impressed by his energy and zeal and irritated by his willfullness and independence. But even his detractors could not deny that he was almost singlehandedly responsible for tremendous improvements to Kalaupapa in the face of overwhelming odds. This is the story of one humble man with faith in God and in himself, who faced gargantuan challenges and triumphed.

Publisher: Honolulu : University of Hawai'i Press, c2000
ISBN: 9780824823221
Characteristics: ix, 444 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Leper Priest of Molokai: the Father Damien story is a biography about a young Catholic priest from Belgium who, in 1873, volunteered to become the first priest to live among the lepers on the exile island of Molokai, Hawaii. The author, Richard Stewart, gives extensive details regarding the tremendous work which Father Damien performed among the lepers in his 16 years at the settlement. The Hawaiian government thought the only solution to an epidemic outbreak of leprocy was to banish the afflicted to Molokai and let the people die there, without doctors or nurses, or spiritual care. Father Damien, a priest assigned to the Big Island, saw the need of the lepers and, with some medical knowledge and some background in farming and building, took up the challenge to be the caregiving priest to the lepers. It is a story of a "humble man with faith in God and in himself, who overcame huge challenges and triumphed".


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