Molokai

MOLOKA’I - A SPECIAL HAWAIIAN ISLAND 

 

Molokaʻi is distinguished in the Roman Catholic religion as the longtime residence of Father Damien, a Belgian priest, and Mother Marianne Cope of the Sisters of St. Francis, both of whom have been canonized Roman Catholic Saints for their treatment and care given during the 19th century to long term sufferers of Hansen’s Disease also known as leprosy. 

A site of a Roman Catholic Saint is deemed a sacred place and is visited by practicing Catholics from around the world for giving prayers asking for healing and religious guidance. The Kalaupapa Colony is one of the two sites in the United States where a Roman Catholic Saint resided; it is the only single site where two Saints (Saint Damien and Saint Marianne) both resided.

Historically, a small north shore colony on Molokaʻi, Kalaupapa, was the place where sufferers of Hansen's Disease were forced into quarantine by the Hawaiian government, but there are no active cases of Hansen's Disease on Molokaʻi today. Those who continue to live in the settlement are patients who chose to stay after the segregation policy was lifted in 1969.

The first European sailor to visit the island was Captain George Dixon Captain George Dixon in 1786. 

 

Kalaupapa: Leprosy settlement 

The village is located on the Kalaupapa Peninsula at the base of some of the highest sea cliffs in the world, dropping over 2,000 feet (610 m) to the Pacific Ocean.

The 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 The isolation law was enacted by King Kamehameha V and remained in effect until 1969, when it was finally repealed.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. 

Shortly before the end of mandatory isolation in 1969, the state legislature considered closing the facility entirely. Intervention by interested persons, such as entertainer Don Ho and TV newsman Don Picken, resulted in allowing the residents to remain there for life. The opponents to closure pointed out that, although there were no active cases of leprosy in existence, many of the residents were physically scarred by the disease to an extent which would make their integration into mainstream society difficult if not impossible.

   Kalaupapa view.

Father Damien and the Lepers of Kalaupapa Kalaupapa's reputation as a leprosy colony is well-known. Hansen's disease, the proper term for leprosy, is believed to have spread to Hawaii from China. The first documented case of leprosy occurred in 1848. Its rapid spread and unknown cure precipitated the urgent need for complete and total isolation Surrounded on three sides by the Pacific ocean and cut off from the rest of Molokai by 1600-foot (488m) sea cliffs, Kalaupapa provided the environment.

In early 1866, the first leprosy victims were shipped to Kalaupapa and existed for 7 years before Father Damien arrived.

The area was void of all amenities. No buildings, shelters nor potable water were available. These first arrivals dwelled in rock enclosures, caves, and in the most rudimentary shacks, built of sticks and dried leaves. <

Taken after Damien had constructed most of the houses seen here, this photo shows the stark, barren peninsula and settlement at Kalawao in the 1880s. 

Folklore and oral histories recall some of the horrors: the leprosy victims, arriving by ship, were sometimes told to jump overboard and swim for their lives. Occasionally a strong rope was run from the anchored ship to the shore, and they pulled themselves painfully through the high, salty waves, with legs and feet dangling below like bait on a fishing line.

The ship's crew would then throw into the water whatever supplies had been sent, relying on currents to carry them ashore or the exiles swimming to retrieve them.

In 1873, Father Damien de Veuster, aged 33, arrived at Kalaupapa. A Catholic missionary priest from Belgium, he served the leprosy patients at Kalaupapa until his death. A most dedicated and driven man, Father Damien did more than simply administer the faith: he built homes, churches and coffins; arranged for medical services and funding from Honolulu, and became a parent to his diseased wards.

Shown here in a rare pencil sketch from December, 1888, Damien contracted the disease, and after 16 years of selfless service, died in 1889.

 

 

 

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