TODAY’S SAINT: MARIANNE COPE, A SAINT FOR VICTIMS OF LEPROSY
(Franciscanmedia.com) – Though leprosy scared off most people in 19th-century Hawaii, that disease sparked great generosity in the woman who came to be known as Mother Marianne of Molokai. Her courage helped tremendously to improve the lives of its victims in Hawaii, a territory annexed to the United States during her lifetime (1898).
Mother Marianne’s generosity and courage were celebrated at her May 14, 2005, beatification in Rome. She was a woman who spoke “the language of truth and love” to the world, said Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the of Saints. Cardinal Martins, who presided at the beatification Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, called her life “a wonderful work of divine grace.” Speaking of her special love for persons suffering from leprosy, he said, “She saw in them the suffering face of Jesus. Like the Good Samaritan, she became their mother.”
Just a few of the photos I took on an early visit to the peninsula of Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka’i. It was here that victims of leprosy were exiled to live (and there are still a few living here today). The heroes of Kalaupapa became saints – Damien and Marianne – and a third one, Joseph Dutton, has had his cause for canonization opened. Damien died of leprosy in 1889.
On January 23, 1838, a daughter was born to Peter and Barbara Cope of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany. The girl was named after her mother. Two years later the Cope family emigrated to the United States and settled in Utica, New York. Young Barbara worked in a factory until August 1862, when she went to the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York. After profession in November of the next year, she began teaching at Assumption parish school.
Marianne held the post of superior in several places and was twice the novice mistress of her congregation. A natural leader, three different times she was superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, where she learned much that would be useful during her years in Hawaii.
Elected provincial in 1877, Mother Marianne was unanimously re-elected in 1881. Two years later the Hawaiian government was searching for someone to run the Kakaako Receiving Station for people suspected of having leprosy. More than 50 religious communities in the United States and Canada were asked. When the request was put to the Syracuse sisters, 35 of them volunteered immediately. On October 22, 1883, Mother Marianne and six other sisters left for Hawaii where they took charge of the Kakaako Receiving Station outside Honolulu; on the island of Maui they also opened a hospital and a school for girls.
In 1888, Mother Marianne and two sisters went to Molokai to open a home for “unprotected women and girls” there. The Hawaiian government was quite hesitant to send women for this difficult assignment; they need not have worried about Mother Marianne! On Molokai she took charge of the home that Saint Damien de Veuster had established for men and boys. Mother Marianne changed life on Molokai by introducing cleanliness, pride, and fun to the colony. Bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women were part of her approach.
Awarded the Royal Order of Kapiolani by the Hawaiian government and celebrated in a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mother Marianne continued her work faithfully. Her sisters have attracted vocations among the Hawaiian people and still work on Molokai.
Mother Marianne died on August 9, 1918, was beatified in 2005, and canonized in 2012.
The government authorities were reluctant to allow Mother Marianne to be a mother on Molokai. Thirty years of dedication proved their fears unfounded. God grants gifts regardless of human shortsightedness and allows those gifts to flower for the sake of the kingdom.
POPE: NEVER FORGET OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS WITH HANSEN’S DISEASE
In a message to participants in a seminar on Hansen’s disease (or ‘leprosy’) and other neglected tropical diseases, Pope Francis says we must ask ourselves, “Will we bend down to touch and heal the wounds of others?”
By Christopher Wells
“We must not forget these brothers and sisters of ours” who are afflicted by Hansen’s disease.
Pope Francis offered that invitation in a message to an international symposium focusing on serving those afflicted by leprosy and other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The two-day “Leave No One Behind” symposium is underway in Rome (January 23-24) and is sponsored by the French Raoul Follereau Foundation, Italy’s Amici di Raoul Follereau (“Friends of Raoul Follereau”), and the Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative, in collaboration with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The symposium is focused on achieving the goal of “zero leprosy” in the world and establishing societies where no one is left behind due to Hansen’s Disease and other NTDs.
Will we bend down to help others?
In his message Monday, Pope Francis noted that, “the stigma attached to leprosy continues to cause serious human rights violations in various parts of the world.” He insists that we must not ignore a disease that still affects hundreds of thousands of people around the world, especially “in more deprived social contexts.”
Basing his appeal on “the human family’s vocation to fraternity,” Pope Francis calls on everyone to ask, “Will we bend down to heal the wounds of others? Will we stoop to carry one another on our shoulders?” “This is the present challenge, of which we should not be afraid.”
Building an inclusive society
Pope Francis then goes further, urging people to “seize the occasion of World Leprosy Day [the last Sunday in January] to review our models of development and to seek to correct the discrimination they cause.” He added, “This is a propitious occasion to renew our commitment to building an inclusive society that leaves no one on the margins.”
Returning to the specific question of Hansen’s disease, the Pope said we must ask ourselves “how best to work with people with leprosy, treating them fully as persons and recognizing them as the main players in their struggle to participate in basic human rights and live as full members of the community.”
“I hope that this conference will help gather voices from around the world and discuss measures that can be taken to further promote respect for human dignity.”
Pope Francis expressed his sympathy for those suffering from Hansen’s disease, and encouraged them in their efforts to secure spiritual support and medical care. At the same time, he invited Christian communities to allow themselves to be evangelized “by these brothers and sisters” and to be at the forefront of efforts aimed at promoting their full integration into society.