Father Damien Churches
About Father Damien Churches
Father Damien Churches are some of the oldest structures on Molokai. Located throughout the island, these Molokai churches are symbols of Father Damien’s legacy and influence on Molokai. Some of the churches are still used for worship today.
One church in particular was built in 1876 and is formerly known as St. Joseph’s Church. It is the second oldest of the Father Damien Churches, and is still open for worship. A small statue of Father Damien stands outside the church. Visitors often leave flowers and leis and honor his compassionate work for others. Nestled near the base of Molokai’s southern cliffs, this may be the most serene of all Father Damien Churches.
Father Damien, now known as Saint Damien, Apostle to the Exiled, was an influential figure in Hawaii since he first arrived in 1864. Born Jozef De Veuster in 1840 in Belgium, he traveled to Hawaii as a Catholic missionary and was ordained into the priesthood shortly after arriving in Honolulu.
Father Damien volunteered in caring for those forced into exile because of their Leprosy. Forming a colony on the isolated Kalaupapa Peninsula, his work to build not only a community but a sense of community in a place known for despair is a true sense of his character. Constructing churches, care homes, schools, Father Damien’s commitment to helping others is nothing short of selfless.
Father Damien eventually contracted Hansen’s disease himself and died in 1889. He was buried in the Kalaupapa colony, but his remains were later moved back to his homeland in 1936 at the request of the Belgian government. After years of caring and building with his very own hands, his right one was returned to Hawaii and interred once again at his original gravesite in the place he loved most.
Facts & Trivia
- Island: Molokai
- Duration: Approximately 30 minutes
- Insider Tip: Be sure to get a picture of Father Damien's statue next to the church. Often people leave flowers and leis to honor his compassionate work to those who were afflicted with Hansen's disease (Leprosy).
- Fun Fact: Hawaii is the only state with a canonized saint. Hawaii will have a second canonized saint soon as Mother Marianne Cope who continued Father Damien's work after his passing will be ordained by Pope Benedict XVI in October of 2012.
- What to Expect: A quaint church in a quiet part of town where a relaxing view of the sea meets the splendor of Molokai's emerald mountains.
- Pop Culture: In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI canonized Father Damien as Saint Damien of Molokai, Apostle to the Exiled.