On this occasion, however, though strongly drawn to the beautiful island, he stayed not longer than six weeks, and proceeded to Sydney, where, early in 1890, he published, in a blaze of righteous anger, his Father Damien: an Open Letter to the Rev. Dr Hyde of Honolulu, in vindication of the memory of Father Damien and his work among the lepers of the Pacific. At Sydney he was very ill again: it was now obvious that his only chance of health lay within the tropics.
FATHER DAMIEN, the name in religion of Joseph De Veuster (1840-1889), Belgian missionary, was born at Tremeloo, near Louvain, on the 3rd of January 1840.
He was educated for a business career, but in his eighteenth year entered the Church, joining the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary (also known as the Picpus Congregation), and taking Damien as his name in religion.
Some ill-considered imputations upon Father Damien by a Presbyterian minister produced a memorable tract by Robert Louis Stevenson (An Open Letter to the Rev. Dr Hyde, 1890).
The place became an asylum for lepers and the caring for them began to be a charity under government charge in 1866; but conditions here were at first unspeakably unhygienic, their improvement being largely due to Father Damien, who devoted himself to this work in 1873.