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"Father Damien" - by Rev. Weldon Bares

Have you ever heard of Father Damien? A statue of him can be found in front of the Hawaii State Capitol. Another statue of Father Damien is in Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol.

His story is so inspirational to me. Father Damien was a Roman Catholic missionary priest from Belgium. He devoted much of his life to working with people who had leprosy in Hawaii in the late 1800's. The lepers were forced to live on the island of Molokai.

Even though they were outcasts and banished, Father Damien loved and reached out to them in meaningful ways. He worked so hard to make their lives better.

Mahatma Gandhi said that Father Damien was an inspiration for his work with the untouchables of India.

Father Damien was 49 years old when he died on April 15, 1889, at Kalawao. Shortly before his death, he wrote his brother Pamphile, "I am gently going to my grave. It is the will of God, and I thank Him very much for letting me die of the same disease and in the same way as my lepers. I am very satisfied and very happy."

He was buried in the cemetery next to his church, St. Philomena.

E. Stanley Jones once talked about of a Hindu leper who said: "All others said ‘go.’ Only Jesus said ‘come.’” The people of Molokai - through the ministry of Father Damien - were able to hear Jesus saying to them, “Come.”

Father Damien. What an amazing life. What an inspiration. Over a century after his death, Father Damien continues to bless the world by his example. I want to be more like him!


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