- Robert L. Gale
Damien, Father (03 January 1840–15 April 1889), Roman Catholic priest, was born Joseph de Veuster in Tremeloo, Belgium, the son of François (also called Frans) de Veuster, a Flemish farmer, and Anne Catherine. His mother taught him a little at home, and he helped a local laborer who was both a blacksmith and a gravedigger. His father wanted him to become a merchant and sent him to an academy at Braine-le-Compt in the province of Hainault to learn French. But Joseph was eager to follow his brother Auguste, who after serving his novitiate in Paris was transferred to Louvain. In 1859 Joseph began to train there to become a lay brother. Calling himself Damien, he was transferred to the novitiate of Issy, near Paris, where he studied Latin and took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in 1860 as a brother of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He served and studied in Paris and Louvain. When his brother contracted typhus and was unable to fulfill his ambition to become a missionary in the Hawaiian Islands, Damien asked for and was given the assignment. He began his voyage from Bremerhaven in October 1863, went around Cape Horn, and docked at Honolulu in March 1864. In May he was ordained deacon and priest....