What is The Damien-Dutton Society?
The Damien-Dutton Society for Leprosy Aid is a registered non-profit tax exempt organization whose aim is to raise funds for research and treatment centers, social and physical rehabilitation, and education all leading to the conquest of leprosy.
The organization was founded in 1944 by Staff Sgt. Howard E. Crouch, Medical Corps US Army stationed in Jamaica, British West Indies. Located near the Army Base was a leprosarium staffed by the Marist Sisters of Bedford, MA. A Jesuit missionary priest took the Sergeant with him when he went to say Mass for the patients. The Sergeant was overwhelmed by the sight of these people suffering from one of the most ancient diseases known to mankind. There were over 200 patients, ages from 5 to 95, many being confined behind the high brick walls for more than 40 years. At this time there was no known cure for leprosy. Touched by the dedication of these gallant Sisters, he was inspired to form a group of servicemen and women from the Base to adopt the leprosarium. They visited often bringing with them all kinds of sweets, toys, clothing, games and medical supplies to assist the Sisters in making the lives of these poor outcasts a little brighter. In 1944 he was transferred to the European Theater of War. Home on leave prior to being assigned to the hospital ship, the Sergeant and his family formed an organization to continue his work. It was named after the famed priest Father Damien and Joseph Dutton of Stowe, Vermont, a Civil War veteran.
Our legal title is the Damien-Dutton Society for Leprosy Aid, Inc. Our financial reports are audited each year by a CPA firm. A Board of Directors and an Advisory Board consisting of eminent leprologists, social workers, religious leaders of all faiths and lay people administer the Damien-Dutton Society. The board meets once a year at its headquarters, 616 Bedford Avenue, Bellmore, New York. The Society headquarters can be visited from Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. There is a small museum with photographs, displays of Damien, Dutton, and worldwide leprosy projects as well as another section showing materials, paintings and other objects made by the leprosy patients in different parts of the world. There is also a memorial room with the statue of Saint Damien, which was designed and produced by a local artist and an Icon of Saint Damien created by H. B. Cote as a gift to the Damien-Dutton Society.
Who Are Damien And Dutton?
Father Damien was born January 3, 1840 in Tremeloo, Belgium and was baptized Joseph de Veuster. At an early age he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Prior to his ordination he was sent to the Hawaiian Islands as a Missionary where he was ordained on May 21, 1864 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu and took the name of Damien. He served in many missions before volunteering to become the first resident priest at the newly formed leprosarium in Kalawao, Molokai in 1873, located on the tip of an isolated peninsula. It was here that King Kamehameha V sent all victims of leprosy found on the Islands in the year 1865 to fend for themselves resulting in lawlessness, hopelessness and despair. When the Bishop called for volunteers, Father Damien was among the first to answer his call. His zeal, love and concern for the victims that he served caused him to forget all the precautions and he mingled freely among the patients, eventually contracting the disease himself. His work brought worldwide attention to the plight of victims of leprosy. Father Damien died on April 15, 1889 and was buried in Kalawao next to St. Philomena Church. Forty-seven years later in 1936, at the request of King Leopold of Belgium, his body was exhumed, taken to Belgium and placed in an honored shrine in Louvain. Father Damien set an example of sacrifice and he was eventually beatified on June 4, 1995 by Pope John Paul II. At his beatification, his hand was re-interned in his original tomb in Kalawao - so the two Josephs lie side by side once again. Father Damien was canonized as "Saint Damien of Molokai" on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.
Ira Dutton, known to the world as Brother Dutton, was born in Stowe, Vermont on April 27, 1843 and in 1847 his family moved to Janesville, Wisconsin where he spent his youth. When the Civil War broke out he joined the Northern Army and served with distinction in the Quartermaster Corp rising to the rank of Captain. He was engaged in many battles. Following the war he volunteered to find the dead that were scattered on the battlefields and bring them to a common burial site, which eventually became the National Cemetery.
Dutton entered into an unstable marriage that eventually ended in divorce. He turned to alcohol and drank heavily for the next few years. He was very patriotic and realizing that he was heading into oblivion, he took a vow to never touch a drop of whiskey again and he kept that vow for the remainder of his life. He sought to seek atonement for his transgressions and became a convert to the Catholic faith, taking the name Joseph at Baptism-not realizing that eventually he would meet another Joseph who would change the course of his life. Dutton entered the Trappist Monastery in Kentucky but after two and a half years of strict discipline, fast and silence, he realized that this was not his true vocation and he left the monastery with the blessing of the Abbot.
Learning about the plight of Father Damien, he knew that he was called to serve this heroic man. He gave away all of his possessions, went on a steamer to Hawaii and arrived at Kalawao in July 1886 offering himself to Father Damien without any request for any recompense. For almost two years he worked side by side with Damien, helping with his building projects and caring for these isolated outcasts. After Damien's death he stayed on Molokai for the rest of his life, spending almost 42 more years caring for the young boys and men. He never contracted leprosy and became widely known by many distinguished figures in the United States and foreign countries, including President Wilson. President Theodore Roosevelt sent the Pacific Fleet to pass Molokai and dip their colors in salute to this heroic patriot. Brother Dutton died on March 26, 1931 and is buried in the grave next to St. Damien at St. Philomena Church, Kalawao.