At the end of World War II, our Fr. Anthony Hofstee, O.P. visited the Tala Leper Colony, inhabited by exiled and forgotten victims of Hansen's disease (leprosy). He was so moved by the horror, misery, and despair he found that he requested to be assigned there, and in 1947 became our province’s first foreign missionary. He remained there until his death in 1987, having served the inhabitants of Tala with unconditional love for four decades. Through his efforts, the Holy Rosary schools were established, offering a free Catholic education from elementary school through college for Hansenites and their children. The curriculum, firmly rooted in faith and the teachings of Jesus, nurtures the children's whole being, particularly focusing on their worth and dignity as God's children.
Besides helping to fund the schools, we helped support a community of the Dominican Brothers of St. Martin de Porres (Martinian Brothers), leprosy survivors themselves, who dedicated their lives to caring for others with the disease. They would find many hiding out in remote areas of the islands and encourage them to return to Tala for proper diagnosis and treatments. The Brothers served their spiritual needs as well as providing loving medical and personal care, counseling, and morale-building services.
Due in large part to Fr. Hofstee’s determination to bring leprosy out into the open and raise funds for research and treatments, medicines have been developed which can cure the disease or hold it in remission. His legacy is that the fear of contagion has dissipated and segregation in colonies such as Tala is no longer mandated.