Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Saint Marianne Cope

I haven't done a post about a saint in a while, so I thought why not. I don't know what it is about the saints that interests me so much. I guess I just like to admire all the great things that people have done throughout the years. It gives me an example each and every day of how to live my life in the name of God.

Today is the feast day of St. Marianne Cope, a relatively new saint. She was canonized only 95 days ago by Pope Benedict XVI alongside Kateri Tekawitha. She is also only the eleventh American citizen to be canonized.

During the 19th century, Hawaii was a feared land, for it was infested with leprosy. However, it did not scare off Marianne Cope. On this day, 175 years ago, a daughter was born to Peter and Barbara Cope of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany. Two years later, the family emigrated to America to settle in Utica, New York. Young Barbara, which is Marianne's birth name, started working in a factory when she was in eight grade in order to support her family, since her father had become ill. Barbara's father died in 1862, and she was old enough where she decided to leave her family to enter the Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis. Barbara took her new name after one year of formation, and started teaching at Assumption parish.

St. Marianne was a natural leader, serving in positions that allowed her to open the first two Catholic Hospitals in Central New York. She would go on to serve as superior general of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, where she learned much that would serve her well in Hawaii. As if that was not enough, Marianne also played a role in the establishment of the Geneva Medical College. 

In 1883, Marianne, who, by then, was Superior General of her congregation was asked by King Kalākaua if the congregation could help with caring for the lepers. More than fifty religious orders in America and Canada were also asked, but they all declined the plea. Marianne and six other sisters agreed and took charge of the Kakaako Receiving Station outside Honolulu. They also opened the first hospital and a school for girls on Maui. For her accomplishments, King Kalākaua bestowed on Mother Marianne the Cross of a Companion of the Royal Order of Kapiolani.

In 1888, Marianne and two sisters went to Molokai to open a home for “unprotected women and girls” there.  They also went to take care of Saint Damien, SS.CC., Marianne's counterpart, who was known as "the Apostle of Lepers." She would take over his projects when he contracted leprosy. Saint Damien and Saint Marianne are the only two people to have been canonized for working in Hawaii.

I find it a breath of fresh air to hear of a saint who has been alive relatively recently (as in not longer than 500 years ago). Don't get me wrong, I definitely enjoy learning about all the saints,  but the ones that have been alive more recently, I feel, are sometimes easier to connect to in our society. I enjoyed learning about Saint Marianne Cope and the amazing deeds she has accomplished. It just goes to show the lengths that some people will go to to please God. Saint Marianne is someone who we can all look up to and attempt to exemplify.


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