Father Damien was a priest for the leper colony on Molokai, near Hawaii, USA. He was born Joseph de Veuster in Tremeloo, Belgium on 3 January, 1840. His father sent him to college at Braine-le-Comte to prepare for a commercial career. However, a mission led by the Redemptorists in 1858 persuaded him to become a priest. He joined the Fathers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary at Louvain, taking the name Damien, and was admitted to the religious profession on 7 October, 1860.
He was sent to Hawaii on 19 March, 1864, and was ordained at Honolulu on the 24 May of that year. He was given charge of a number of districts on the islands and built several chapels in Hawaii and Molokai with his own hands.
On 10 May, 1873 Father Damien requested to be sent to the leper settlement on Molokai as the resident priest. He asked this because the board of health refused to send physicians or nurses to aid the 600 people there.
On arrival, he not only served as their priest but provided them with whatever medical assistance he could. He dressed their ulcers, helped them to build houses, dig graves and make coffins.
In 1885, after 12 years of service to the lepers of Molokai, he developed the first stages of the disease himself. However, he managed to continue his service for a further three years, aided by two priests and two lay brothers, until he finally passed away on 28 March, 1888.