January 22, 2018

St. Marianne Cope, Patron of Lepers and Outcasts

Saint Marianne Cope,

Optional Memorial - January 23rd 

St. Marianne Cope was a professed member of the Sisters of St. Francis and is recognized as an extraordinary woman of the 1800's and early 1900's. Her call to labor as a servant of God and the Franciscan spirit she embraced, provided a foundation of values that gave her the courage and compassion to accept difficult challenges with diplomacy and grace. She is a model of humility amid suffering.

As a leader in her community, Mother Marianne was instrumental in opening two of the first Catholic Hospitals in Central New York: St. Elizabeth in Utica and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. Recognizing the need for basic health care in a city of immigrants, she and a small group of women defied convention by purchasing a saloon in Syracuse, New York and transforming it into a hospital to serve the needs of a diverse community. Here they welcomed everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or means. They pioneered rules of patient’s rights and cleanliness practices not seen before in the United States. Throughout upstate New York, Mother Marianne and her growing community educated and provided healthcare to children and adults with dignity and compassion for all.

In 1883, she and a group of six other Sisters of Saint Francis bravely journeyed across the United States by train and took a ship to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) to care for individuals believed to have leprosy (now known as Hansen’s disease). They initially served at the Branch hospital at Kaka’ako on the island of Oahu to care for those exiled from their families. The king and queen then asked that the sisters open a home for the children of patients which Marianne did.

Mother Marianne traveled to Maui in 1884 where she was asked to manage Malulani Hospital, the island’s first general hospital, as well as St. Anthony School. In 1888, she and the sisters moved to Kalaupapa to care for those with Hansen’s disease who had been exiled to the remote peninsula on the island of Molokai. There she cared for Saint [Fr.] Damien De Veuster in his last months and attended temporarily to the boy’s home that he had established there until the Sacred Heart Fathers sent a permanent replacement.

The future saint not only provided healthcare to the girls in her care at Bishop Home in Kalaupapa, she offered healing for mind, body and spirit by creating a community that fostered spiritual evangelization, dignity and respect. The grave sites of thousands of those who died from Hansen’s disease cover the peninsula on Molokai. The sisters provided them with some measure of peace and comfort.

Saint Marianne Cope’s faith and deeply held values; compassion, self-sacrifice, devotion, courage and devout service, as a Sister of Saint Francis, supported her extraordinary piety and life in imitation of Christ that led her to canonization by Pope Benedict XVI on October, 21 2012. Together with Saint Damien De Veuster, her friend and spiritual mentor, she was known as the beloved friend of outcasts.

Adapted excerpt from SaintMarianne.org a site dedicated to her mission.

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