Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Father Damien

Two statues represent each state in the Capitol and Statuary Hall in Washington, D. C. Ronald Reagan and Junipero Serra represent California, and representing the state of Hawaii is Father Damien (or Jozef de Veuster), famous for his work with Hansen’s disease patients in Kalaupapa, Moloka’i. On October 11, 2009, Father Damien was canonized as a saint in Rome along with Sister Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, Sister Jeanne Jugan, Father Francisco Coll Guitart and Rafael Arnáiz Barón.

Aside from the plethora of books written about Father Damien and occasional movie interest, one book stands out about the history of Kalaupapa. The book is The Colony by John Tayman. Having visited the settlement of Kalaupapa and meeting some of its residents, I found this book to be fascinating. How the state of Hawaii dealt with residents who contracted leprosy and the courage of someone like Father Damien, a Belgian who went to work among them only to die of the same disease, makes this a “must read” if you ever plan to visit the island of Moloka’i or want a good book. This is a darker side to Hawaiian history, but one that must be told.

Submitted on behalf of Librarian Bonnie.

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