Damien

by Aldyth Morris

University of Hawai‘i at Manoa Outreach College presented a Manoa Readers / Theatre Ensemble Production on July 28–29, 2012, at Kennedy Theatre on the UH Manoa Campus. The production was directed by Tim Slaughter and starred Dann Seki.

Born in Tremelo, Belgium, in 1840, Jozef De Veuster
took the name Damien when he joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1859. He arrived in Honolulu on March 19, 1864, and was ordained in Our Lady of Peace Cathedral, near the corner of Beretania and Bishop Streets, on May 21. He spent the next eight years on Hawai‘i Island ministering to the people of Puna and Kohala-Hamakua districts. When the church asked for priests to serve the leprosy patients on Moloka‘i, he was the first to go.

Damien became part of the community of patients
and the few family members and friends who had gone to Moloka‘i voluntarily, as kokua, or helpers. A farmer, carpenter, and laborer, he built houses, constructed a water system, and planted trees. Damien also organized schools, bands, and choirs. He provided comfort and medical care to the best of his knowledge, and he buried the dead. He did not hesitate to badger the Hawaiian government, the Board of Health, and his church superiors for more resources. Gradually, his efforts attracted worldwide attention, which brought much needed aid to the settlement.

In 1885, twelve years after he arrived in Kalawao,
Damien was diagnosed with leprosy. Four years later, on April 15, 1889, he died. In keeping with his wishes, he was buried in the cemetery next to his church. Damien’s death was noted widely. His remains were exhumed in 1936 and reburied at Leuven, Belgium. A relic—the remains of his right hand—was returned to his original grave at Kalawao in 1995. In 2009, he was canonized by the Catholic Church.

(Adapted from the National Park Service website.)

Father Damien with girls at the settlement.


DIRECTOR

For over twenty years, Tim Slaughter has studied and worked in the performing arts. From 1983 to 1987, he was production manager for Manoa Valley Theatre. He earned a doctorate in theatre from the University of Hawai‘i–Manoa in 1992 and in 1999 became director of the University’s Community Services Division.

actor

A member of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Dann Seki has appeared in numerous productions, including Hawaii Five-O, Lost, Hawaii, North Shore, Magnum, P.I., And the Sea Will Tell, Voices from Okinawa, The Cocktail Party, King Lear, and The Informant.

chanter

In addition to being a premier storyteller, Nyla Fujii- Babb has been an actress, voice-over talent, and producer for more than thirty years. Noted for her collaborations with other artists, she has combined storytelling with dance, theater, music, and the visual arts.

musician

Songwriter and slack-key guitarist John Keawe was born and raised in Hawi, North Kohala. He has received numerous Na Hoku Hanohano Awards for his slack-key guitar albums and was a contributing artist on Hawai‘i’s first Grammy Award for Best Hawaiian Music Album. Under the label Homestead Productions, he has released ten albums.