DAMIEN, THE LEPER PRIEST by Anne E. Neimark

DAMIEN, THE LEPER PRIEST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

That ideal priest and martyr, man of God and minister to his people, Father Damien (nÉ Joseph de Veuster in Belgium, 1840) was 23 and not yet ordained when he volunteered for missionary service in the Sandwich Islands. Neimark shows him climbing rocky mountains to reach new ""flocks"" and hand-building church after church to accommodate them--before volunteering for still more arduous duty in the stinking, putrefying corpse pit called Molokai, dumping-ground for the islands' exiled lepers. Without commenting on his occasional culture-bound moral strictures, she shows him transforming the lawless mass of despairing inhumanity into a cohesive, dignified community. After 16 years as doctor, nurse, engineer, carpenter, farmer, priest, and friend, Damien ended his ""exile on earth"" a victim of the leprosy that had been eating away at his own flesh for half the duration of his service at Molokai. Neimark tells his remarkable story vividly and directly, without glossing over the horrors of leprosy. She doesn't exclaim over Damien's saintliness, nor, fortunately, does she try to analyze it, but simply shows him at work among the lepers. She ends with a summary of the controversy that followed his death and an update on the status of leprosy. Her straight, concrete manner of telling leaves a strong impression.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1980
Publisher: Morrow