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ACTOR

Beyond distinction as a professional speaker and singer, Wayne is an experienced performer who brings his skills as an actor and narrator to the stage and the studio. Messmer is a Professional Member of the Screen Actors Guild/ American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (SAG/AFTRA)

Audiences have seen and heard Wayne Messmer in live stage performances in leading roles over the years that include Gaylord Ravenal in Showboat, Emile deBeque in South Pacific, El Gallo in The Fantasticks, Petruchio in Kiss Me Kate, Harold Hill in The Music Man, Albert Peterson in Bye, Bye Birdie and numerous musical reviews and cabaret shows. His commanding stage voice and booming baritone have entertained countless audiences.

Film credits include the feature role of the New York Yankees radio announcer in the Universal Pictures (1992) release, “The Babe” directed by Academy Award winner Arthur Hiller, starring John Goodman and Kelly McGillis.

(Photo) As he appeared in a featured role as the role as the NY Yankees’ Radio Announcer in the Universal Pictures (1992) release, “The Babe” 

 

DAMIEN ~ A ONE-MAN PLAY BY ALDYTH MORRIS ~ STARRING WAYNE MESSMER

Wayne is strongly connected with the character of Father (Saint) Damien, “The Leper Priest of Molokai,” whom he has identified as his personal hero. In the one-man play Damien by Aldyth Morris, Messmer channels the powerful and inspirational stories of the challenges that Father Damien experienced while serving the community of the exiled lepers (Hansen’s Disease) on the remote Hawaiian Island of Molokai in the 1870’s and 1880’s, until his own life was taken by the affliction on April 15, 1889 at the age of 49. Father Damien was canonized in a ceremony at the Vatican on October 11, 2009. Messmer’s portrayal of Father (Saint) Damien has drawn unanimous critical acclaim and has been performed in Hawaii on two occasions.

(Photo) As Father (Saint) Damien, “The Leper Priest of Molokai” in the critically acclaimed production of Damien: A One-Man Play by Aldyth Morris.

The Story of Father (Saint) Damien

Father Damien or Saint Damien of Molokai, SS.CC. or Saint Damien De Veuster

(b: JAN 3, 1840 – d: APR 15, 1889), born Jozef De Veuster, a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium and member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He won recognition for his ministry from 1873 to 1889 in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi to people with leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease), who were required to live under a government-sanctioned medical quarantine on the island of Molokaʻi, on the Kalaupapa Peninsula.

During this time, he taught the Catholic faith to the people of Hawaii. Father Damien cared for the patients himself and established leadership within the community to build houses, schools, roads, hospitals, and churches. He dressed residents’ ulcers, built a reservoir, made coffins, dug graves, shared pipes, and ate poi from his hands with them, providing both medical and emotional support.

After eleven years caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of those in the leper colony, Father Damien realized he had also contracted leprosy when he was scalded by hot water and felt no pain. He continued with his work despite the infection but finally succumbed to the disease on 15 April 1889.

Upon his beatification by Pope John Paul IIin Rome on June 4, 1995, Blessed Damien was granted a memorial feast daywhich is celebrated on May 10th. Father Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009. The Catholic Encyclopediacalls him “the Apostle of the Lepers.

Father Damien was born Jozef (“Jef”) De Veuster, was the youngest of seven children and fourth son of the Flemish corn merchant Joannes Franciscus (“Frans”) De Veuster and his wife Anne-Catherine (“Cato”) Wouters in the village of Tremelo in Flemish Brabant in rural Belgium on January 3, 1840. Growing up on a farm, it was assumed that he would eventually take over the farm. Instead, Jozef attended college in Braine-le-Comte, then entered the novitiate of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Leuven. He took the name of Brother Damianus (Damiaan in Dutch, Damien in French) in his first vows, presumably in reference to the first Saint Damian, an early Christian saint who was said to perform miracles.

Following in the footsteps of his older sisters Eugénie and Pauline (who had become nuns) and older brother Auguste (Father Pamphile), Damien became a “Picpus” Brother (another name for members of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary) on October 7, 1860. His superiors thought that he was not a good candidate for the priesthood because he lacked education. However, he was not considered unintelligent. Because he learned Latin well from his brother, his superiors decided to allow him to become a priest. During his ecclesiastical studies, Damien prayed daily before a picture of St. Francis Xavier , patron of missionaries, to be sent on a mission.Three years later when Damien’s brother Father Pamphile could not travel to Hawaiʻi as a missionary because of illness, Damien was allowed to take his place.

On March 19, 1864, Damien arrived at Honolulu Harbor on Oahu.He was ordained into the priesthood on May 21, 1864, at what is now the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace originally built by his religious order, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Today it serves as the Cathedralof the Bishop of Honolulu.

In 1865, out of fear of this contagious disease, Hawaiian King Kamehameha V and the Hawaiian Legislature passed the “Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy”. This law quarantined the lepers of Hawaii, requiring the most serious cases to be moved to a settlement colony of Kalawao on the eastern end of the Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Molokaʻi. Later the settlement of Kalaupapa was developed. Kalawao County, where the two villages are located, is separated from the rest of Molokaʻi by a steep mountain ridge.

Even in the 21st century, the only land access is by a mule trail. From 1866 through 1969, a total of about 8,000 Hawaiians were sent to the Kalaupapa peninsula for medical quarantine.

The Royal Board of Health initially provided the quarantined people with food and other supplies, but it did not have the manpower and resources to offer proper health care. According to documents of that time, the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi did not intend for the settlements to be penal colonies, but the Kingdom did not provide enough resources to support them.The Kingdom of Hawaii had planned for the lepers to be able to care for themselves and grow their own crops, but, due to the effects of leprosy and the local environmental conditions of the peninsula, this was impractical.

While Bishop Louis Désiré Maigret, of the Honolulu diocese, believed that the lepers needed a Catholic priest to assist them, he realized that this assignment had high risk. He did not want to send any one person “in the name of obedience”. After much prayer, four priests volunteered to go, among them Father Damien. The bishop planned for the volunteers to take turns in rotation assisting the inhabitants.

On May 10, 1873, the first volunteer, Father Damien, arrived at the isolated settlement at Kalaupapa, where 816 lepers then lived, and was presented by Bishop Louis Maigret. At his arrival he spoke to the assembled lepers as “one who will be a father to you, and who loves you so much that he does not hesitate to become one of you; to live and die with you”.

Damien worked with them to build a church and establish the Parish of Saint Philomena. In addition to serving as a priest, he dressed residents’ ulcers, built a reservoir, built homes and furniture, made coffins, and dug graves. Six months after his arrival at Kalawao, he wrote to his brother, Pamphile, in Europe: “…I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.”

During this time, Father Damien had not only cared for the lepers, but also established leadership within the community to improve the state of living. Father Damien aided the colony by teaching, painting houses, organizing farms, organizing the construction of chapels, roads, hospitals, and churches. He also personally dressed residents, dug graves, built coffins, ate food by hand with lepers, shared pipes with them, and lived with the lepers as equals. Father Damien also served as a priest during this time and spread the Catholic Faith to the lepers; it is said that Father Damien told the lepers that despite what the outside world thought of them, they were always precious in the eyes of God.

Father Damien worked for 16 years in Hawaii providing comfort for the lepers of Kalaupapa. He gave the people not only faith, but also homes and his medical expertise. He would pray at the cemetery of the deceased and comfort the dying at their bedsides. In December 1884 while preparing to bathe, Damien inadvertently put his foot into scalding water, causing his skin to blister. He felt nothing and realized he had contracted leprosy after 11 years of working in the colony

With an arm in a sling, a foot in bandages, and his leg dragging, Damien knew death was near. He was bedridden on March 23, 1889, and on March 30thhe made a general confession. Damien died of leprosy at 8:00 a.m. on April 15, 1889, at the age of 49.The next day, after Mass said by Father Moellers at St. Philomena’s, the whole settlement followed the funeral cortège to the cemetery. Damien was laid to rest under the same pandanus tree where he first slept upon his arrival on Molokaʻi.

In January 1936, at the request of King Leopold III of Belgium and the Belgian government, Damien’s body was returned to his native land in Belgium. It was transported aboard the Belgian shipMercator. Damien was buried in Leuven, the historic university city close to the village where he was born. After Damien’s beatification in June 1995, the remains of his right hand were returned to Hawaii and re-interred in his original grave on Molokaʻi

In 1977, Pope Paul VI declared Father Damien to be venerable. On June 4, 1995, Pope John Paul II beatified him and gave him his official spiritual title of Blessed. Father Damien was canonized on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. His feast day is celebrated on May 10th. In Hawaii it is celebrated on the day of his death, April 15th.

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