In 1873, Father
Damien deVeuster, aged 33, arrived at Kalaupapa. A Catholic missionary
priest from Belgium, he served the leprosy patients at Kalaupapa until
his death. A most dedicated and driven man, Father Damien did more
than simply administer the faith: he built homes, churches and
coffins; arranged for medical services and funding from Honolulu, and
became a parent to his diseased wards.
Shown here in a rare
pencil sketch from December 1888, Damien contracted the disease, and
after 16 years of selfless service, died in 1889.
In 1886, Brother
Joseph Dutton arrived at Kalaupapa to assist Father Damien. Dutton, an
energetic and dedicated missionary priest, assumed many of the duties
Damien was unable to perform as his leprosy progressed.
another revered servant, devoted 29 years on the peninsula as an
administrator, nurse and educator. She spent her life on the go, even
as her age climbed well into the seventies. She died in 1918.
In 1977, Pope Paul VI
declared Father Damien to be venerable, the first of three steps that
lead to sainthood. Pope John Paul II declared Damien blessed in 1995,
the second step before canonisation as a saint.
With the advent of
sulfone drugs in the 1940s, the disease was put in remission and the
sufferers are no longer contagious. The fewer than 100 former patients
remaining on the peninsula are free to travel or relocate elsewhere,
but most have chosen to remain where they have lived for so long.