A year of events to honour Father Damien

A year of events to honour the late Flemish missionary Father Damien got under way on Sunday. Born Josef de Veuster, Father Damien worked with leapers on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai in the nineteenth century. On 21 February this year, the Vatican announced that Father Damien would be canonised at a ceremony due to be held in Rome on 11 October
In order to mark this extraordinary event the congregation to which Father Damien belonged, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and the Diocese of Mechelen are organising a Damien Year to honour the missionary from Tremelo that did so much to ease the suffering of the Molokai leapers.
Events are to be held across Flanders, from Father Damien’s home town of Tremelo to Leuven (Flemish Brabant) and Kortrijk (West Flanders).

The Damien Year got underway in the Church of Saint Anthony in Leuven, where Father Damien’s’ remains were buried for a second time over 70 years ago.

He had originally been laid to rest on Molokai after his death in 1889.

However, in 1936 the Belgian Government decided to bring his remains home and the merchant navy training ship the Mercator was sent to Hawaii to ensure that this was done.

Father Damien’s life formed the central plank of the Mass in the Church of Saint-Anthony on Sunday morning.

The Priest even read from a letter that the missionary had written to his brother during his time on Molokai