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Father Damien Day in Hawaii

15 Apr 2021  Thu

Father Damien Day is celebrated in the American state of Hawaii on April 15 every year. It is dedicated to a Roman Catholic priest and missionary who spent his life helping people with leprosy on the island of Moloka’i.

Father Damien was born Jozef De Veuster in Belgium on 3rd January 1840. In 1864, he was ordained into the priesthood and sent on a mission to Hawaii. At that time the Kingdom of Hawaii was struggling with a public health crisis caused by Eurasian infectious diseases brought by immigrants, sailors, and traders. They included influenza, cholera, smallpox, whooping cough, syphilis, and leprosy.

Father Damien arrived at the quarantined settlement of Kalaupapa as a volunteer in 1873. He worked with settlers to build a church where he could serve as a priest. In addition, he helped them build homes and furniture, made coffins and dug graves, dressed lepers’ ulcers, organized the construction of schools and hospitals, and more.

Father Damien discovered he had leprosy in 1884 but he still continued to provide comfort for the settlers of Kalaupapa. He died of leprosy on April 15, 1889. Father Damien was beatified in 1995 and canonized in 2009. In Hawaii, his feast day is celebrated on April 15.

He has been commemorated on a bunch of stamps of Belgium and Hawaii alike. The above stamp is a 24 Francs denominated stamp that was issued in the year 1989. Designed by Clem Van Leemput, the stamp depicts the right-facing portrait of the priest in front of the scenic background of the church and hilly landscape.

Visit philamart to view and purchase variety of stamps from all over the world.

Image Courtesy: allnumis.com

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