For over half a century after the Peel Island Lazaret’s closure in 1959, the settlement’s tiny Roman Catholic church lay dormant and forgotten in Peel’s bush. Finally, the Friends of Peel Island Association Inc. took the decision to restore the building. Having gained the interest of the local Catholic Parish of Cleveland, the restoration work proceeded thanks for members of their congregation: Syd Steele (manager of the project), John Hickey (master builder), Patrick Hickey (assistant) and Anthony Ryan (labourer), Bob Anderson (master painter and decorator), Tony Moore and Anthony Castelli (assistant painters) who gave of their time and professional expertise to restore the church.
The rededication service, which was celebrated on Peel Island by the Most Rev. Bishop Joseph Oudeman OFMCap.DD, on Tuesday 2 August 2011, was the culmination of a lot of hard work.
Father Damien or Saint Damien of Molokai, born Jozef De Veuster, was a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium and member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary religious institute. He won recognition for his ministry in the Kingdom of Hawaii to people with leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease), who had been placed under a government-sanctioned medical quarantine on the island of Molokai. After sixteen years caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of those in the leper colony, he eventually contracted and died of the disease, resulting in his characterization as a “martyr of charity”.