About Fr. Damen

Father Arnold Damen was born in the province of North Brabant, Holland, on March 20, 1815. He was admitted to the Society of Jesus, November 21, 1837, and was one of the band of young novices brought over to this country by Father De Smet, renowned Jesuit missionary to the American Indians.

In his illustrious career, which spanned some fifty years of apostolic work before his death on January 1, 1890, Father Damen and his companions conducted missions in nearly every principal city of the United States. He is said to have been more widely known in this country, and at one time to have exercised personally a greater influence than any bishop or priest in the Catholic Church. Little wonder, for by his majestic presence and force of eloquence, Father Damen as a missionary rose to a success that surpassed anything ever before - or since - known in America.

The fiery apostolic zeal of this beloved and pious priest can only scarcely be measured by the twelve thousand conversions to Catholicism for which he was responsible, often receiving as many as sixty or seventy souls into the Church in one day. For it must be noted, too, that in the midst of all this remarkable labor, he also managed to found and to organize the great Jesuit institutions of Chicago that stand today as monuments to his holy memory. What explains the inspiring achievements of Father Damen? As one writer expressed it, "He cared nothing for applause or criticism. He was working to save souls." In other words, his noble accomplishments were the fruits of immense charity. That is, charity in the truest sense: He loved God and his fellow man so much that he would spare no energy or effort that was necessary to wrest a soul from the spiritual error and darkness which would bring about its eternal loss. And to this saintly Jesuit, such was the certain fate always and everywhere present outside the one true Church.

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