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Saint Damien de Veuster is better known as Saint Damien of Molokai, “apostle to lepers.” When he was born in 1840, few people had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen’s disease. But by the time he died at age 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him.

Joseph de Veuster grew up in a small village in Belgium. He joined the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1859, taking the religious name Damien. When his brother, who was also a member of the congregation, was taken ill and unable to embark on his assignment in the Hawaiian Islands, Damien went in his place. He was ordained a priest there in 1864.

In 1873 Father Damien responded to the local bishop’s call for volunteers to work on Molokai, an island used in part as a leper colony. At the time there was no cure for leprosy and those who contracted the disease were shunned.

There were about eight hundred lepers on the island when Father Damien arrived and the number continued to grow. Living conditions were so terrible that Damien referred to the place as a “living cemetery.” He visited the lepers in their huts and brought them the sacraments. He also made efforts to improve the roads, harbor, and water supply and to expand the hospital. His multiple responsibilities were said to have included those of a pastor, physician, counselor, builder, sheriff, and undertaker. In one of his letters home, he wrote: “I make myself a leper with the lepers, to bring all to Jesus Christ.”

Father Damien returned to Honolulu to beg for money, clothing and medicine and as news of his ministry spread, donations began to pour in from all over the world. But in 1885, he himself contracted leprosy and was forbidden to leave the island. Volunteers and visitors stopped coming.

When Father Damien spent a week in a Honolulu hospital, his ministry gained even more recognition. He was visited by the king and the prime minister, and money and offers of prayers continued to pour in from Europe and the United States. As his condition worsened, Damien accepted it as God’s will and described himself as the “happiest missionary in the world.” He died on April 15, 1889. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol. Damien was canonized in 2009.

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  • Join or start a summer bible study group.
  • Plan an outing with your family.
  • Introduce yourself to a fellow parishioner with whom you are unfamiliar.
  • Pray for peace on Memorial Day.
  • Help a neighbor who is physically unable to clean their yard.
  • Invite someone to attend a weekend liturgy with you.
  • Make a blood donation.
  • Show genuine hospitality to visitors at your church.
  • Don’t text when you drive.
  • Reduce your stress by getting outside and getting some exercise.
  • Drive courteously.
  • Make contact with a relative you haven’t seen in a long time.
  • Take time to pray each day.
  • Treat your family or loved one to a day at the museum.
  • Volunteer to participate in a community cleanup effort.
  • Make a gift to your diocesan annual appeal.
  • Plant flowers, shrubs or trees in a park or other location.
  • Collect stuffed animals from friends and neighbors write messages to tie or clip onto the animals and give them to a local police department to use in comforting children.
  • Don’t drive while impaired by alcohol.
  • Donate gently used clothing.
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Christ Our Lord,

risen Lord,

light of the world,

to you be all praise and glory!

Shine your light on us

this Easter season

so that we may reflect brilliantly

the glory of your resurrection.

Make us a blessing

for those who suffer,

live in fear or

who are overwhelmed by life.

And let the Spirit fill our hearts

with your loving presence

so that we may become

good stewards of your Gospel

out of love for you

who, for our sakes,

lived, died and rose from the dead;

you who live and reign with your

Father,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

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