Born in Tremelo, Belgium, Joseph de Veuster left school at 13 to work on the family farm. Six years later he joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, taking the name Damien.
He volunteered for a mission to the Hawai’ian Islands, and was ordained in Honolulu in 1864. He served on the island of Hawai’i for eight years, then volunteered in 1873 to work at the leprosy colony on Molokai. (Leprosy is now called Hansen’s disease.) Fr. Damien was a priest, doctor and counselor to 800 patients before he contracted the disease in 1884. He stayed on Molokai, ministering until a month before his death.
Considered a model and martyr of charity, he was canonized in 2009.