Peter Donders was born in Tilburg (Holland), on October 27, 1809. From his youth, he felt himself called to the priesthood, but, because of the poverty of his family, his schooling was cut short. However, at the age of 22, with the help of his parish priest, he entered the minor seminary of St. Michael-Gestel as a seminarian.
He was ordained on June 5, 1841. He was thus able to follow his missionary vocation, setting out for Suriname, which was then a Dutch colony. He arrived in Paramaribo, the principal city of the colony, on September 16, 1842 and applied himself at once to the pastoral works that were to occupy him until his death. His letters express his indignation at the harsh treatment of the African peoples forced to work on the plantations.
In 1856, he was sent to the leper station of Batavia; and this was to be, with very few interruptions, the scene of his labors for the rest of his life.
When the Redemptorists arrived in 1866 to take charge of the mission of Surinam, Peter Donders applied for admission into the Congregation. He professed his vows on June 24, 1867. Religious profession, in associating him with a missionary congregation, gave him a more vivid sense of the apostolic life in community, allowing him to leave Batavia more often to give himself to the conversion of the native Americans and Africans. But the name of Donders remained bound to the leprosarium of Batavia.
He died among lepers, poor among the poor, on January 14, 1887, mourned as their benefactor and invoked as a saint.
He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982.