Thursday, April 22, 2010


The Brisbane Courier June 17th 1889
In reference to tho death of Father Damien, the Hawaiian Gazette of 23rd April says: - By the steamer Mercoli that arrived from Molokai on Saturday morning, news was brought of the death of Father Joseph DeVeuster Damien, the Roman Catholic priest, who had gained worldwide fame for devoting his life to ministrations among the inmates of the Molokai leper settlement. He died on Monday morning, l0th April. Father Damien had been sixteen years in that living tomb, and three years ago contracted the terrible disease that has ended his days. Upon his death he was dressed in priest's vestments and the following day the body was laid in a coffin that the Sisters had lined with white silk. A requiem high mass was said on Tuesday by Father Wondelin, who preached to a crowded church from the words, "The Good Shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep." The body was borne to the tomb by white lepers. There had been a vault prepared under the lauhala tree, beneath which the departed Father was wont to sleep when he first arrived at the settlement. This last resting-place had been chosen by himself.

The following sketch of Father Damien's early life and instalment at the settlement was written by Charles Wan-en Stoddard, after getting the story from the priest's own lips at Kalawao. It is reprinted from a little work, " The Lepers of Molokai," by that well-known author, and the copy used for this purpose was mailed by the late priest to the local editor of this paper only a few weeks ago, for use in writing a sketch of Father Damien and the leper settlement to the order of an Australian newspaper editor. An autograph letter from the then dying Father, pathetic in its statement of the writer's weak condition, was re-mailed to the gentleman soliciting tho article. Mr. Stoddard, who wrote the book four or five years ago, said: "Born in Louvain, Belgium, 3rd January, 18-10. When he was but four-and twenty, his brother, who had just entered the priesthood, was ordered to embark for Honolulu, but at the moment fell sick with typhoid fever. Young Damien, who was a theological student at the university, having received minor orders and belonging to the same order - the Society of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (commonly called Society of Picpus) -at once wrote to his superior and begged that he mighty be sent upon the mission in his brother's stead. In one week he was on his way to that far country. He was ordained upon his arrival in Honolulu, and for a few years led tho life of toil and privation which invariably falls to the lot of the Catholic missionary.

"In 1873 he, in common with others of the clergy, was invited to be present at the dedication of a beautiful chapel, just completed by Father Loonor, at Wailuku, on the island of Mam. There he met the Bishop, who expressed regret that he was still unable to bind a priest to Molokai, for the demand was far in excess of the supply. Father Damien at once said : ' My Lord, I hear that a small vessel will next week take cattle from Kawaihae to Kalaupapa ; if you will permit mo I will go there to help the lepers make their Easter duties.'

"His request was granted and in company with the Bishop and the French Consul, he landed at the settlement, where he found a colony of 800 lepers, of whom between 400 and 500 were Catholics. A public meeting was immediately called, at which the Bishop and the consul presided. His Grace arose to address the singular gathering, and said : “Since you have written to me often that you have no priest, I leave you one for a little time” and imparting the benediction, he returned immediately to the vessel, which was to sail that very hour. Father Damien added: “As there is much to be done here, by your leave I will not accompany you to the shore.” Thus the good work was at once begun. It was high time; tho lepers were dying at the rate of from eight to twelve per week. Tho priest had not time to build himself a hut - he had not even tho material with which to build it - and for a season he slept in tho open air, under a tree, exposed to the wind and the rain.

"Soon after, he received a letter of congratulation from the white residents of Honolulu chiefly Protestants - together with some lumber and a purse of $120. Then he put up his little house, and began to feel at homo. After remaining some weeks at Kalawao, he was obliged to go to Honolulu, there being no more convenient priest to whom he could make his confession.'''

Tho sketch proceeds to relate the cool reception Father Damien received from the President of the Board of Health, who in the course of an interview said, “the priest might go to Molokai, but, if so must remain there for good. It was in vain that the father urged the necessity of one priest having to make confession at stated intervals, to another. "An eminent physician," one of the board, pleaded the cause of the priest and aided by the French Consul, a special permit was obtained, on which Father Damien returned to Kalawao. Mr. Stoddard continues : "Shortly after his return he received official notice that he must remain where he was; and that on any attempt to leave the island, or even to visit other portions of Molokai, he would be immediately put under arrest. Tho notice was sharply worded. This roused the indignation of the priest and he notified tho Board of Health that if they would attend strictly to their duties he would attend to his. When it became necessary for him to visit a priest on a neighbouring island he did so, asking no odds of any man. He also visited his scattered flock on the circuit of Molokai, attending faithfully and fearlessly to the wants of his people.

"Often on these rounds he was the welcome guest of a gentleman, tho son of a Protestant missionary and on one occasion the host said to him playfully: “I suppose you are aware that I have orders to place you under immediate arrest if you presume to leave your leper settlement” And this was the Sheriff of Molokai. “Six months later a permit came, granting Father Damien leave to come and go as he pleased; but in eleven years how seldom has he cared to use it!"

"Office of the Board of Health, Honolulu, April 22, 1889. - The Very Rev the Bishop of Olba, Honolulu.
Sir, - It is with feelings of pain that the board received by mail last week from Molokai the sad intelligence of the death of the lamented Father Damien, Catholic priest at Kalawao, Molokai, who passed away on Monday last, 19th April, 1889. 'On behalf of the Board of Health, permit me to express to you as his spiritual adviser our condolence and sincere feeling of sympathy; with you in view of the sad event and our high appreciation of his long and faithful service to the Board of Health and to humanity. I am, rev. sir, very sincerely yours, N. B. EJÍBUSOIÍ, President Boaid of Health."

"Honolulu, 23rd April, 1889. - Dr. N. B. Emerson, President of the Board of Health.
Dear Sir, - Please accept for yourself and for the other members of the Board of Health, my sincere thanks for the kind expression of your condolence and feeling of sympathy in view of the Rev. Father Damien's death. I highly value your appreciation of his long and faithful service to the board and humanity. Allow me to add that the members of the Catholic

Mission will always be happy to co-operate with the Board of Health in the work of humanity and Christian charity after the example of the late Father Damien, as far as it may be desirable-Very respectfully, you, obedient servant, HERMAN, Bishop of Olbar V. Ap."



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