(taken from “Father Damien’s Letters”, Congregation of the Sacred Hearts SS.CC., Rome, 2017)
Letter dated August, 1873 from Fr. Damien at Kalawao to his Superior General:
With compassion for the unfortunate, Divine Providence has seen fit to cast her eyes upon your unworthy servant to offer pastoral care at the famous hospital for people with leprosy. Our Government has been obligated to establish this hospital for the preservation of the whole archipelago from contagion. I take the liberty, therefore, to address these lines to you in my capacity as pastor of an exceptional parish of 800 lepers of whom very close to a half are now Catholic.
I will tell you first how I came here and got established. On the island of Molokai, there was never a resident priest. In 1865, the Government was sending the first lepers into this corner of the island separated by high, impassable mountains; in a short time, there were about 300. Once or twice a year, Father Raymond went to visit the Catholics. The poor Christians, half of them dying, made loud cries to have a priest with them. Thus for seven years many unfortunates died without receiving either baptism or the sacraments of the dying. Last Spring, our new Government taking public health into consideration, wanted to purge all the islands of this terrible malady. By order of the Board of Health, all who had leprosy in the country were rounded up and sent to this hospital as to a state prison. They are today 800. Guess how many more there will be.
(to be continued)
Blessings, pono and pule!
Fr. Brian, ss.cc.