CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.Res. 786 is being considered under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-CA) on September 30, 2009.
H.Res. 786 resolves that the House of Representative:
• "Recognizes the canonization of Father Damien to sainthood; and
• "Honors and praises Father Damien for his legacy, work, service, and his insistence on recognizing the human rights and dignity of every individual, particularly those who lived alongside him at the Hansen's disease settlement on the island of Molokai."
According to the resolution's findings, Father Damien de Veuster, SS.CC. was born Joseph de Veuster in Tremelo, Belgium, on January 3, 1840, and in 1859, he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Louvain and selected Damien as his religious name. In 1863, Father Damien sailed to the Hawaiian Islands to perform missionary work. He was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace on May 21, 1864, and began his pastoral ministry on the island of Hawaii. The Hawaiian Government deported individuals infected with leprosy, now also known as Hansen's disease, to a peninsula on the island of Molokai. Several priests volunteered to work on Molokai for a few months, but Father Damien requested to remain permanently with the individuals suffering from Hansen's disease.
For 16 years, Father Damien served the individuals afflicted with Hansen's disease. Father Damien died on April 15, 1889, after contracting the illness. Father Damien will be canonized a saint on October 11, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI.