Kalawao County does not have the functions of other Hawaii counties. It is a judicial district of Maui County, which includes the rest of the island of Molokai. The county has no elected government. It is administered by the Hawaii Department of Health, and the only county statutes that apply to Kalawao County directly are on matters of health.
village is the site of a former settlement for leprosy
patients. The original leper colony was first
established in Kalawao in the east, opposite to the
village corner of the peninsula. It was there where
Father Damien settled in 1873. Later it was moved to the
location of the current village, which was originally a
Hawaiian fishing village. The settlement was also
attended by Mother Marianne Cope, among others. At its
peak, about 1,200 men, women, and children were in exile
in this island prison. The isolation law was enacted by
King Kamehameha V and remained in effect until 1969,
when it was finally repealed. Today, about fourteen
former sufferers of leprosy (which is also known as
Hansen's Disease) continue to live there. The colony is
now part of Kalaupapa National Historical Park.
Saint Damien of Molokai
While Father Damien was serving in several parishes on Oahu, the Kingdom of Hawaii was facing a public health crisis. Some Native Hawaiians became infected by several diseases brought to the Hawaiian Islands by foreign traders and sailors. Thousands of Hawaiians died of influenza, syphilis, and other ailments that had never been seen there before. One of these other diseases was leprosy (Hansen's disease). At that time, leprosy was thought to be highly contagious, but later it was found that 95% of human beings are immune to it. Leprosy was also thought to be incurable. Out of fear of its spread in 1865, the Hawaiian Legislature passed, and King Kamehameha V approved, the "Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy". This law quarantined the lepers of Hawaii and caused them to be moved to settlement colonies of Kalaupapa and Kalawao on the eastern end of the Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Molokai. Kalawao County, where the villages are located, is divided from the rest of Molokai by a steep mountain ridge, and even now the only land access to it is by a mule trail. About 8,000 Hawaiians were sent to the Kalaupapa peninsula from 1866 through 1969.
...I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.
Father Damien's arrival is seen by some as a turning point for the community. Under his leadership, basic laws were enforced, shacks became painted houses, working farms were organized, and schools were established. At his own request, and of the lepers, Father Damien remained on Molokai.
Doctor Masanao Goto, a Japanese leprologist, came to Honolulu in 1885 and treated Father Damien. It was his theory that leprosy was caused by a diminution of the blood, and his treatment consisted of nourishing food, moderate exercise, frequent friction to the benumbed parts, special ointments and medical baths. The treatments did, indeed, relieve some of the symptoms and were very popular with the Hawaiian patients. Father Damien had faith in the treatments and stated that he wished to be treated by no one but Dr. Goto.
Dr. Goto was one of his best friends and Damien made his last trip to Honolulu on July 10, 1886, to receive treatment from him.
Damien engaged in a flurry of activity in his last years. While continuing his charitable ministrations, he hastened to complete his many building projects, enlarge his orphanages, and organize his work. Help came from four strangers who came to Kalaupapa to help the ailing missionary: a priest, a soldier, a male nurse and a Religious Sister.
Louis Lambert Conrardy was a Belgian priest. Mother (now also Saint) Marianne Cope had been the head of the Franciscan-run St Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse, New York. Joseph Dutton was an American Civil War soldier who left behind a marriage broken by alcoholism. James Sinnett was a nurse from Chicago. Conrardy took up pastoral duties; Cope organized a working hospital; Dutton attended to the construction and maintenance of the community's buildings; Sinnett nursed Damien in the last phases of the disease. An arm in a sling, a foot in bandages and his leg dragging, Damien knew death was near. He was bedridden on March 23, 1889, and on March 30 he made a general confession.
Father Damien died of leprosy at 8:00 AM on April 15, 1889, at the age of 49. The next day, after Mass by Father Moellers at St. Philomena's, the whole settlement followed the funeral cortège to the cemetery where Damien was laid to rest under the same pandanus tree where he first slept upon his arrival on Molokaʻi.
In January 1936, at the request of the Belgian government, Damien's body was returned to his native land. It was brought back aboard the Belgian sailing ship Mercator and now rests in Leuven, a historic university city close to the village where Damien was born. After his beatification in June 1995, the remains of his right hand were returned to Hawaii, and re-interred in his original grave on Molokaʻi.
In 1977, Pope Paul VI declared Father Damien to be venerable, the first of three steps that lead to sainthood. On June 4, 1995, Pope John Paul II beatified him and gave him his official spiritual title of Blessed. On December 20, 1999, Jorge Medina Estévez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, confirmed the November 1999 decision of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to place Blessed Damien on the liturgical calendar with the rank of optional memorial. Father Damien was canonized on October 11, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI. His feast Day is celebrated on May 10. In Hawaii, it is celebrated on the day of his death, April 15.
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