NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Joseph Dutton: A Third Saint for Hawaii?

A photo of Bro. Joseph Dutton,
the third Apostle to the Molokai Lepers
Having spent almost my entire life in Hawaii, it's easy for me to say that there are a lot of great things about the 50th State that fill us islanders with immense pride - the spectacular scenic beauty of our tropical islands; our rich heritage and multicultural society; the welcoming Aloha Spirit of our people... and for us local Catholics, Hawaii is also blessed to have two resident Saints: St. Damien de Veuster (d. 1889) and St. Marianne Cope (d. 1918), the dual Apostles of Mercy & Charity of Molokai.  But most people are unaware of the fact that there was actually a third apostle to the lepers of Kalaupapa.  Indeed, there was... and his name was Joseph Dutton.

Admittedly, I heard a little about Bro. Joseph before, but I didn't pay much attention to his life until a couple of years ago, when I heard rumors of him possibly being considered for Sainthood because of his exemplary faith and ministry to our lepers. That's when I really started brushing up on Dutton's life and history.  Then, mid-last year, the Diocese of Honolulu officially initiated the opening of his Cause for Canonization, which means that, if things go well, and if God so wills it, Joseph may just end up being Hawaii's next Saint.  That also means we'd be the only State in the US to have three Saints!  Definitely another thing all the people of Hawaii can be proud of.

A Brief Biography of the Servant of God

So who exactly was Mr. Joseph Dutton?  According to various online sources, Joseph Dutton was actually born as Ira Dutton in Stowe, Vermont, on April 27, 1843.  His parents Ezra and Abigail were strong Protestants - Baptists - and instilled in their son a measure of their Christian Faith.  In his youth, Ira lived for a time in Wisconsin where he worked at a bookstore and also taught Sunday School.  When the American Civil War erupted in 1860s, he enlisted in the Union Army and served with distinction until the end of the war.

Joseph Dutton sitting in the midst of some of the young
male leper patients of Kalaupapa, Molokai
Sometime during his military tenure Ira married, but his wife (he never did name her) was habitually unfaithful, resulting in the couple's divorce in 1881. To add to his personal issues, he was also addicted to alcohol.  He drank heavily, until, finally coming to his senses, Ira made a personal promise in 1876 to never drink again; a vow he kept for life.

At the same time he quit drinking, the Christian Faith Ira nearly lost during his war years, was rekindled... but this time around, he didn't return to Protestantism, but rather he was drawn to Catholicism. He studied Catholic teaching diligently for a month, before he was baptized into the Church in April 1883.  Ira was 40-years-old at the time he converted.

Seeking a way to atone for his checkered past, Dutton entered the Trappist Monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky and changed his name to Bro. Joseph (after St. Joseph, his favorite Saint).  He stayed in the monastery for two years before realizing that it truly wasn't what God had planned for him so he received permission to leave. Some time after, Joseph somehow learned of Fr. Damien's work with the Molokai lepers and, almost immediately, discerned God's call to serve alongside the heroic priest, who incidentally, was also named Joseph.  So the former monk sold all his belongings, boarded a ship, and landed on Molokai in July 1886.

For the next 44 years, Bro. Joseph, as he was affectionally called, served the lepers selflessly and tirelessly. He worked, side-by-side, with Saints Damien and Marianne until their deaths, nursing the sick and serving as their trusted helper in many important matters.  In fact, shortly before he died, St. Damien reportedly remarked, "I can die now.  Bro. Joseph will take care of my orphans."  Such was the confidence the Saint had in his friend.

Bro. Joseph's holy death occurred on March 26, 1931 and the patients of Kalaupapa mourned his passing deeply. They buried their beloved Brother next to St. Damien's grave in the churchyard of St. Philomena Church in Kalawao, near Kalaupapa.  His remains are still there, awaiting further advancement of his Cause for Canonization.

"I would not leave my lepers for all the money the world might have."

~ Words of Bro. Joseph

Bro. Joseph, standing beside the original grave of St. Damien de Veuster on Molokai

Brother Joseph Dutton's Cause

In June 2015, Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu approved the establishment of the Joseph Dutton Guild to help promote knowledge of, and devotion to, Bro. Joseph. The guild is also raising funds to further the Cause for Canonization. For anyone interested in obtaining more information about this new Servant of God, and/or donating to the Cause, the Joseph Dutton Guild may be contacted at the following addresses:

       Mailing Address:  1184 Bishop Street - Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
       E-mail Address:  josephdutton@rcchawaii.org

The guild has also published a special prayer to obtain favors through the intercession of Bro. Joseph Dutton, which I included below.  Please kindly join us, Hawaii Catholics, in praying for the speedy Canonization of our third Apostle of Charity.  Mahalo and God bless us all!

Bro. Joseph Dutton, pray for us!

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