Father Damien, now recognized officially as a saint by the Catholic Church, first arrived in Oahu in 1864.  At the time of the young priest’s arrival, Hawaii was suffering a crisis of public health brought on by all the new traffic to and from the islands.  In particular, there was an outbreak of leprosy,or Hansen’s Disease, which was little understood and much feared.  In response King Kamehameha V issued an edict called The Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy in 1865, and set up two leper colonies in an isolated region of Molokai.  It is said Kamehameha V had only great intentions, but the colonies were inadequately supplied and poorly overseen and they quickly degenerated into squalor.  Some stories even report the colonies becoming terrible scenes of filth and degradation, with men behaving as little more than animals.  We don’t know if things actually got this bad, but we do know that when the monarchy requested volunteers to minister to the colonies and a young Father Damien volunteered, his arrival was met with relief and joy. get more Hawaiian history from Hana Picnic Co.