Sister Alicia Damien Lau has pledged to remain at Kalaupapa until the last patient with Hansen’s disease leaves the island. She first came to Molokai in 1965, the year she entered her community when nearly 200 patients were still under quarantine and forbidden to leave the island. Today, seven patients remain.

St. Marianne Cope is Sister Alicia’s inspiration. “When I look at the wonderful things St. Marianne did with the people of Kalaupapa, and her commitment to love them unconditionally, it’s my way of continuing in her footsteps,” she says.

In honor of her many works of love at Kalaupapa, The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem – Grand Priory of America awarded Sister Alicia the Companionate of Merit Award during the group’s investiture ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina on Oct. 29.

Richard Payatt, commander of the Grand Commandery of the West said he is grateful to Sister Alicia for going above and beyond her everyday works of charity and goodness to lead a beautiful pilgrimage to Molokai for the Order of St. Lazarus-Grand Priory of America. “Her guidance and assistance . . . to create the events and arrange the tour of Kalaupapa is beyond her normal work of charity and goodness,” he said. “It was a work of love.”

Sister Alicia said she was pleased to accept the award “on behalf of the hundreds of sisters in her community who have served in Kalaupapa through the years.” She also presented the group’s leadership with gifts from Hawaii including Hawaiian sea salt, candies and two books, “Pilgrimage and Exile” and “Damien & Marianne Pilgrimage Guide.”

The primary mission of The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem – Grand Priory of America is to create awareness and educate people about programs designed to combat Hansen’s disease. The group also works to promote organ donation programs.