St. Damien of Molokai is known for ministering to a leper colony on a Hawaiian island, eventually dying of leprosy.
Among the handful of American saints, St. Damien of Molokai is best known for his work in a leper colony in Hawaii.
The Vatican biography gives a good summary of his life.
Damien was above all a Catholic missionary. Fr. Damien is known today as a hero of charity because he identified so closely with the victims of leprosy.
He respected the religious convictions of others; he accepted them as people and received with joy their collaboration and their help. With a heart wide open to the most abject and wretched, he showed no difference in his approach and in his care of the lepers. In his parish ministry or in his works of charity he found a place for everyone.
Furthermore, “At his own request and that of the lepers, he remained on Molokai. Having contracted leprosy himself, he died on April 15, 1889, at the age of 49, after serving 16 years among the lepers.”
St. Damian was known for his heroic faithfulness to the people he served, unwilling to leave the island even in the face of contracting the disease.
His example of selfless service has inspired many over the years, and is an example of a missionary who cared more about the people he served than for himself and his needs.