Our Lady of Mercy and St. Brigid



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Joseph de Veuster, the future Father Damien, was born in Belgium, January 3, 1840. When his oldest brother Pamphile entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, his father planned that Joseph would take charge of the family business. Joseph, however, decided to become a religious himself. In 1859, he entered the novitiate in Louvain and took the name of Damien.

In 1863 his brother, who was supposed to leave for the mission in the Hawaiian Islands, became ill. Damien obtained permission from the Superior General to take his place. He arrived in Honolulu on March 19, 1864, and was ordained to the priesthood on May 21, 1864. He was assigned to the island of Hawaii to begin his pastoral ministry. At that time, the Hawaiian Government decided on a measure at stopping the spread of "leprosy" by deporting those thought to be infected to a peninsula surrounded by the ocean on three sides and by a very high mountain cliff on the other, a place of exile known as Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai. A plea was made by those abandoned for a priest or minister to come to the aid of their spiritual needs. Bishop Louis Maigret spoke to the priests about the problem. Several volunteered to go for a few months. Damien was the first to leave on May 10, 1873. At his own request and that of the residents of Kalaupapa who were afflicted with leprosy, he remained definitively on Molokai.

He became a source of consolation and encouragement for his flock by becoming the doctor of their souls and of their bodies without distinction of race or religion. He gave a voice to the voiceless and built a community where they discovered new reasons for living. That once lawless place had now become a place where the law of love prevailed.

After he himself contracted the disease in 1885, Damien was able to identify completely with them with the words, "We, Lepers." Father Damien became a witness of the love of God for His people. His strength came from the Eucharist as he himself wrote: "It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation..." It is there that he found for himself and for those he served the support and encouragement, the consolation and the hope that made him "the happiest missionary in the world," a servant of God and a servant of humanity.

Father Damien died on April 15, 1889, having served sixteen years among the patients with leprosy. His body was transferred to Belgium in 1936, where he was interred in the crypt of Saint Anthony's Chapel, the Church of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary at Louvain. His fame spread to the entire world. In 1938 the process for his beatification was introduced at Malines in Belgium. His Holiness Paul the Sixth signed the Decree on the "heroics of his virtues" on July 7, 1977. In 1995, Father Damien was beatified by His Holiness John Paul the Second in Brussels. On October 11, 2009, His Holiness Benedict the Sixteenth raised Blessed Damien to the rank of sainthood. Saint Damien's Feast Day is celebrated onMay 10th, the anniversary of the day he arrived at Molokai.

~ Biography adapted from: https://www.catholichawaii.org/catholic-essentials/saints-traveling-relics/history-of-hawaiis-saints/saint-damien/


Known as the “Saint of the Impossible” and the “Peacemaker” Rita (ca. 1380-1457?) overcame many difficulties throughout her life. She had a generous love and a deep sense of penance. She was able to bring about peace between rival families and heal divisions between hostile groups of people.

Born in Roccaporena, Cascia, Italy around the year 1380, Rita Lotti at an early age wanted to become a nun. Her parents, however, insisted that she marry. So, at the age of 14, she married Paolo Mancini, a man who was a bit “rough around the edges”.Rita was a good influence on Paolo. They lived harmoniously for 18 years and had two twin sons. Paolo, who had settled down and become a responsible adult, worked as the town watchman. One day, members of a local political faction ambushed and murdered him.

Their sons, influenced by their local environment and by angry family members, wanted to avenge their father's murder. Rita forgave her husband's killers. She prayed that her sons would die rather than follow the unwritten “law of vendetta” and take revenge upon the murderers. In fact, both sons did die from natural causes shortly afterwards. Rita, now without a family, sought to fulfill her desires to become a religious sister. At first the nuns of the Augustinian convent of Saint Mary Magdalene did not want to receive her, partly because she had been a married woman and partly because some of the sisters were relatives of Paolo's killers. Rita persisted. She prayed and worked to establish peace between the hostile factions of Cascia. Finally she was accepted into the convent.

She remained in the cloister during the final 40 years of her life. Fifteen years before her death, while at prayer, she received on her forehead the mark of a thorn from Jesus' crown of thorns. During the last four years of her life, Rita was seriously ill. She died May 22, 1457 (although a few writers give the year of her death as 1447). Saint Rita is also known by the lovely epithet: "The Pearl of Umbria" due to the expanded form of her name "Margarita" which signifies "pearl." Her remains are preserved in the Basilica of Saint Rita in Cascia.

~ Biography adapted from: https://www.midwestaugustinians.org/st-rita-of-cascia