This week in Christian history: ‘Grassley 6’ report, Basil the Great dies, Father Damien born

Father Damien born – Jan. 3, 1840

A photograph of Father Damien (1840-1889), a Catholic priest and missionary known for his ministry among lepers in Hawaii. | Public Domain

This week marks the anniversary of when Joseph de Veuster, who later became Father Damien and famously ministered among the lepers of Hawaii, was born in Tremelo, Belgium.

In 1873, Father Damien traveled to the leper colony in Molokai and did various things for the marginalized community, from overseeing the building of chapels to bandaging wounds.

Father Damien himself would later contract the disease and died in 1889, with the Catholic priest eventually being honored with a statue at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., in 1969.

"The bronze statue is based on photographs taken of Father Damien near the end of his life, with the scars of his disease visible on his face and his right arm in a sling beneath his cloak. His broad-brimmed hat was traditionally worn by missionaries. His right hand holds a cane," explained the Architect of the Capitol.

"Hawaii's Statuary Hall Commission received offers from 66 artists to create the statue of Father Damien for the Capitol and selected seven to submit models. New York sculptor Marisol Escobar's contemporary design was chosen over more classically styled representations."  

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