As my husband and I drive around our town running errands and shopping, we pass many residences that have signs either on their doors or windows or on posts in their front yards. The signs often consist of drawings or cutouts of hearts, and usually words of thanks to healthcare workers. The signs are not elaborate, but they are wonderful examples of recognition and appreciation for the sacrifices and hard work of those on the front line of providing medical care, especially to pandemic patients.
St. Damien de Veuster, whose memorial is celebrated today, would certainly have merited such signs if they had been in vogue in the Kalaupapa Peninsula leper colony in the mid 1800’s. As a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Damien was sent to Hawaii in 1866 and to the leper colony at Kalaupapa in 1873. For 16 years he worked to get houses, schools and even a church constructed; he also ministered to the spiritual and medical needs of the lepers, until leprosy claimed his own life.