Father Damien finds his way in New York


Father Damien is to be given his own street in New York. ‘Father Damien Way’ lies in the part of East 33rd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan and, rather appropriately, near three important hospitals, including the Bellevue Hospital Center, which specialises in treating leprosy. Not only that, the new Father Damien Way is located at the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts, the congregation to which Damien belonged. The inauguration of the new street took place on 11 May, just one day after Saint Damien's name day.

Father Damien (1840-1889), born Jozef De Veuster, was a Belgian monk and missionary who became world famous because of his work with people suffering from leprosy in Molokai, Hawaii. Damien arrived in Molokai in 1873 at his own request to care for exiled leprosy patients. He was the driving force behind the construction of buildings including a church, a school and a hospital. Damien lived among more than 600 lepers to die of the disease himself in 1889. Father Damien was declared a saint in 2009. His anniversary, as the patron saint of leprosy and aid sufferers, is celebrated on 10 May.

The street name is a wonderful tribute to Damien's work, according to Bart Massart, president of the Damien museum in Tremelo. "Damien went to the American state of Hawaii and made a name for himself as someone dedicated to people living on the edge of society", said Massart. "I also believe that Damien is important for his approach to working with other people and other religions."

Nice to know: Father Damien is the only non-American to have his bust in the Capitol in Washington.