Every age has its stories of heroic men and women whose faith challenges them to reach out in heroic love and service to alleviate the sufferings of their brothers and sisters.
This is the story of one such hero. He was born Joseph De Veuster, a Belgian farm boy. He is known now to all the world as Damien the Leper. His bronze figure graces the statuary hall in Washington, D.C.
Damien’s compassion for the lepers led him to spend sixteen years in the “living graveyard that was Molokai,” where he died at the age of forty-nine in service to people suffering from the terrible disease of leprosy.
Damien never lost sight of his life’s purpose, despite the many difficulties and sufferings he bore. It was only his faith that enabled him to endure the trials that his life’s work caused him.
We hope that you enjoy this story and find it a source of strength and encouragement.
January 3, 1840 – April 15, 1889 (49 years old at the time of death)
Read about this incredible artifact after the reminder about The Vatican Unveiled (where you will be able to see this letter!)
Visit Their Website
Due to an outpouring of interest in the papal artifacts of Fr. Richard Kunst, a decision has been made to host a second viewing of his collection, similar to but more extensive than, the 2004, The Vatican Comes to Duluth.
SAVE the DATE
August 19 – 21. 2022
DECC City Side Convention Center
The Vatican Comes to Duluth was an exhibit of Father Richard Kunst’s Papal Artifacts’ Collection, believed to be the largest collection of papal memorabilia in North America, including manuscripts, clothing, relics, Swiss Guard items and other rarities connected to the papacy, canonized saints and notable individuals.
Father Kunst started this Collection while working for the U.S. Senate. Over the years, it continued to grow and became so substantial that colleagues encouraged him to share these significant artifacts through a public viewing. The year 2004 was chosen for this spectacular event, because it commemorated the end of Pope John Paul II’s Jubilee Year.
The Collection now includes items from Pope Francis to Pope St. Victor I (189-199) and even a relic from the original chair of St. Peter himself. It has grown immeasurably since 2004.
Proceeds will benefit Star of the North Maternity Home & Stella Maris Academy, the Catholic schools of Duluth, MN, “Commissioned by the Catholic Church, to prepare lifelong learners who lead, love and serve as Jesus taught-transforming our world one student at a time.” The academy has three campuses located at St. James, St. John the Evangelist & Holy Rosary parishes.
The Collection has been viewed by the likes of George Weigel, a leading Catholic theologian, and Crux editor, John Allen Jr. In his May 2016 editorial, Allen wrote, “Of all places, a reminder from Duluth that the papacy matters: Father Richard Kunst.” The Papacy: A Living History, (a series about the Collection and hosted by Fr. Kunst) aired for two seasons on EWTN and was part of numerous media outlets covering stories about the Collection over the past many years. They have guaranteed an even broader audience than originally anticipated.
We encourage you to plan accordingly in August, so that you are present at what promises to be an event that will eclipse the 2004 showing. Open to the public it will include the artifacts themselves, a Vatican store, a sponsors’ gala dinner, and a wine and cheese night, (both events with guest speakers) to name just a few of the festivities being planned.
Father Richard Kunst has always had a mission to educate people about the Church. It is his conviction that, “you cannot love what you know little about. The Collection is an enjoyable, informative and sacred tool to help with that.”
Contents of the Letter:
“On your arrival in Honolulu, you will first make acquaintance with the members of the Board of Health. And by gaining their Confidence you will easily obtain permission to come and pass here a few weeks. You do not need to hire a schooner in which to make your home. A special home for receiving visitors will be willingly put at your disposal and you will find our new doctor, Dr. Swift, a good-hearted Irishman!! When you write to our friend Chapman, please give him my thanks for his kindness towards me. Our workmen are now covering in our church. The Stations of the Cross will be received with many thanks. If you bring any value with you for the church, please deposit it at Bishopham to my credit or if I am no more on this world, at the Catholic Mission in Honolulu…with the hope of our soon meeting here, J. Damien Deveuster”.
The artifact presented here is known to be excessively rare given the contagious illness St. Damien contracted four years before his death. The fact that St. Damien was canonized on October 11, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI, makes this letter, not only rare, but a sacred item of a canonized saint. It is an exceedingly rare and treasured part of the Papal Artifacts’ Collection.
Damien, Father Joseph Damien de Veuster, a Belgian Catholic missionary to the leper colony in Molokai, Hawaii, joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1840. He served as a missionary in the islands of Hawaii for several years before volunteering to serve the lepers on Molokai in 1865. For eleven years Damien ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of the colony, helping them to build cottages and roads. He contracted leprosy in 1884, dying from its ravages four years later.
This letter, known in the world of collecting, is an ALS: an autographed letter, signed, is the concluding page of a three page letter, signed, “J. Damien Deveuster.” There is no date but it is probably after he had contracted leprosy.
The letter was written to Edward Clifford, an accomplished artist from England. He visited Damien in December 1888 and rendered several sketches of the dying priest. The letter concerns the Stations of the Cross that were being given to the Catholic church on Molokai where Damien lived at the leper colony established there.
In Word Shadows of the Great, Thomas Madigan writes, “Without doubt Damien wrote few letters and it is not unlikely that many of those which come from his pen during the leper colony days were destroyed by the recipient.” He adds that he had owned the only two know letters by Damien. I must agree that Damien can be considered excessively rare. I can find no record of sales, at any rate, in auction or dealer catalogs for the past ten years. This letter is used to illustrate Damien’s autograph in Ray Rawlin’s Stein and Day Book of World Autographs.
Here is a link to a detailed article about the celebration in Honolulu of bringing a relic of this great saint “home”: