( – 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.

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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.


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.



On a personal level, I was delighted yesterday to hear Pope Francis speak at the Sunday Angelus of World Leprosy Day, which is celebrated annually on January 30 since 1954. I also read a Message about this disease, also known as Hansen’s disease, from the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Dicastery prefect, Cardinal Michael Czerny noted that leprosy has been on the decline since a multi-drug therapy was introduced in the 1980s, but said the tropical disease is still devastating and neglected.

 In fact, over just the past year, over 127,000 cases of Hansen’s Disease were reported, with many leading to long-term complications.

As most of you know, Saints Damien and Marianne of Molokai were two prominent saints who worked with victims of leprosy in the 19th century in Hawaii. Joseph Dutton – a layman but called Brother Joseph by St. Damien – worked with each of them for a total 44 years, half his life. In fact, even after Mother Marianne’s death in 1918, Joseph continued to work with victims of leprosy on Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai. (The Chosen: Jesus heals a leper)

The Joseph Dutton Guild in the diocese of Honolulu, of which I am a member, chose a postulator last year and we are excited that the cause for canonization for Servant of God Joseph Dutton, is now fully underway! Another saintly person who worked to ease the pain and suffering of Hansen’s patients, to educate them, to make life as comfortable, even joyful, as possible.


Pope Francis urged members of Italy’s taxation authority to implement Gospel values as they work to favor the redistribution of wealth and support public services for society’s neediest members.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

The Pope met Monday with a delegation of the Agenzie delle Entrate, Italy’s revenue agency, and reflected on the Biblical roots of taxation and its purpose in society.

The theme of taxation, noted Pope Francis, appears regularly in the Bible, and was an aspect of every government that ruled over the Holy Land.

“The Bible,” he pointed out, “does not demonize money, but offers an invitation to use it correctly, to not become slaves to it, and not to turn it into an idol.”

Even the Biblical kings of Israel imposed taxes on their subjects, he said, making it part of life even in ancient times.

Biblical taxation

Tithing, said the Pope, is a little-known but interesting aspect of taxation, in which a tenth of a person’s revenue is given to the king, as Abraham did after he received a blessing from the priest-king Melchizedek.

The Old Testament book of Leviticus employed revenue from the pre-existing practice of tithing to support the priestly tribe of Levi, freeing them up from manual labor to serve in the Temple of God.

“The tithe for the Levites helped mature two realities in people’s consciences: that of not being self-sufficient, because salvation comes from God; and that of being responsible for one another, beginning from those most in need.”

Pope Francis also explored the conversions of the tax-collectors Zacchaeus and Matthew due to their personal encounters with Jesus.

“Matthew,” he said, “may have even continued to manage his own wealth, even those of others, but he certainly did so with a different logic: that of service to the needy and sharing with the brothers and sisters, just as the Teacher taught him.”




Three causes for canonization have been presented to the U.S. bishops in their fall 2021 meeting, including the cause for Servant of God Joseph Dutton, a cause initiated by the Diocese of Honolulu and Bishop Larry Silva. When a written request to initiate a (local) cause is received by the bishop, for it to advance he must consult the opinion of the regional conference of bishops, then the national conference and lastly, the Holy See. A voice vote today at the USCCB meeting in Baltimore gave the go-ahead for this cause to proceed. Bishop Silva has now completed the first two of those duties.

Because of the research I have done on Servant of God Joseph Dutton, Michael Heinlein of Our Sunday Visitor asked me to write a story. That appeared today when Michael tweeted: Great piece from my friend @joansrome on the third canonization cause #USCCB21 is consulted on today. Get to know Joseph Dutton!

Take a few minutes to read the story so that you understand the photos I post.


The incredible life of Joseph Dutton, a servant to the saints and souls of Hawaii – Our Sunday Visitor (

I took the following photos on several of my trips to Kalaupapa to visit the sites where Sts. Damien and Marianne Cope and Servant of God Joseph Dutton lived and worked among the victims of leprosy.

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In some photos, you will see the area of Kalawao where ships in the 19th century dropped off those ill with leprosy, leaving them at the shore near the big rock you see. I’ve read a few reports where some exiles had to swim a bit or walk in shallow water to shore when they disembarked.

The terrain you see in other photos is that of Kalaupapa in general and Kalawao specifically as that is where Fr. Damian built the church of St. Philomena, where separate homes were built for men and women and teenaged girls and boys. I also took photos of some of the historic descriptions of and facts about the area and Brother Dutton.

I have other photos of some of the burial grounds around Kalaupapa, including the area adjacent to St. Philomena church where Fr. Damien is buried (only a small relic is here with his remains having been transported (against his final wishes!) in 1936 to his native Belgium in St. Anthony’s Chapel in Leuven.

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When I returned to Hawaii in 2012 and subsequent years, I began to seriously study Joseph Dutton’s intriguing story and amazing life and, in 2015, when Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu approved the statutes of the Joseph Dutton Guild, whose mission is to spread knowledge of and devotion to Joseph Dutton, as well as address the financial and logistical needs for his cause for sainthood. I was invited to be a member. I try to attend at least one meeting in person every year and have attended others via Zoom.

On the personal side: I believe that what Dutton experienced in his post-war years was equivalent to what today is called PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder. I would love to see him become a patron saint of people in the military, especially veterans!

Those of us who know the Kalaupapa stories of Sts. Damien and Marianne and Servant of God Joseph Dutton, who have spent time on this historic peninsula, who have studied the history of leprosy, who know some of the current residents of Kalaupapa, who have walked among the many tombs of the exiles who were forced to live there, have a big concern: What will happen when the last patient living there dies?

For decades, employees of the Hawaii Department of Health and the Department of Forests and Parks have lived and worked on Kalaupapa. What will happen to them? Would they still be needed?

What will happen to Kalaupapa? Many of us entertain the thought, the hope that one day this historic piece of land could become a shrine, a sanctuary, especially for members of the military, in particular for veterans. A place of God-given pristine natural beauty, of quiet and peace that would be conducive to introspection, to reflection, to healing of mind, body and soul.

FYI: Since posting this, I learned from a member of the Dutton Guild that the the National Park Service has a sort of master plan for Kalaupapa National Historical Park that is called the General Management Plan. It’s apparently quite long so when I read it and have a better idea of things, I’ll pass that on to you.



Sunday, October 8: When you experience bitterness, put your faith in all those who still work for good: in their humility lies the seed of a new world.

Monday, October 9: The search for peace is an open-ended task, a responsibility that never ends and that demands the commitment of everyone.

Put this on your calendar: At 5 pm Rome time on Thursday, October 26, from a small room in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis will have a linkup with the crew of the International Space Station.


On Sunday I leave for Hawaii to participate in the October 20-22 Saints Damien and Marianne Catholic Conference at the Honolulu Convention Center. I am very excited about the conference because, starting in 2008, I have spent years researching the lives and works of Saints Damien and Marianne Cope, and then covering their canonizations in Rome (respectively 2009 and 2012), and now I can share my stories and listen to the stories of others who also love Hawaii’s two very special saints.

And Hawaii may well have a third saint – Brother Joseph Dutton. He was not a religious brother but rather received that name from Fr. Damien himself who told Joseph one day as they worked together on Kalaupapa, “You are like a brother to everyone here.”

Born Ira Dutton, he took the name Joseph when he became a Catholic. Joseph worked for 44 years alongside Fr. Damien and Sr. Marianne and her nuns, with the leprosy patients on Kalaupapa, this hankerchief-sized piece of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Hansen’s disease is the medical name for leprosy. When it came to the Hawaiian Islands, then a kingdom, King Kamehameha V banished all those with the disease to the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula on the north shore of the island of Molokai. The leprosy colonies operated from 1866 to 1969 and had a total of over 8,500 residents over the decades.

At the time of Fr. Damien, a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, people sick with leprosy were exiled to Kalaupapa. It was that exile of so many human beings who needed the hand not only of a doctor but of another human being to comfort them in their dreadful living conditions, both physical and spiritual, that prompted Fr. Damien to go to Kalaupapa in 1873. He served there until his death in 1889.

Damien was joined by Mother Marianne Cope and six sisters from her Order, the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, in 1883. She lived and worked there until her death in 1918.

We see the words “heroic virtues” literally come to life in Damien and Marianne.

More than 8,000 people, mostly Hawaiians, have died at Kalaupapa. Many of their tombs can still be seen today, although many thousands were washed away years ago as the result of a tsunami. Kalaupapa is now home to just a few remaining residents who are now cured, but were forced to live their lives in isolation.

The conference will, as its title says, focus on Hawaii’s two saints, on their heroic virtues but also on human rights because that is really what Damien and Marianne fought for over so many decades – the rights of people who had been ostracized by society and forced to live in totally undignified circumstances.

When we think of sainthood and heroic virtues, we think: this is Mission Impossible – not something I can achieve. And yet, this is what we are all called to do! And this is what the conference hopes to achieve: to inspire all of us to – in our way, with whatever gifts God gave us, in whatever circumstances He placed us – aim high, to look at sanctity as something eminently achievable.

Did Marianne and Damien think like Mother Teresa: “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much!”

A number of the speakers, as you’ll see from the program, are from the same congregation as St. Damien and the order of St. Marianne.

The special guest of honor is Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga. We have been in touch and I’ll be interviewing him!

I’ll also join Bishop Larry Silva on a pilgrimage to Kalaupapa on October 23. I’ve been there several times before, and have written stories and posted videos and interviewed many people.

I am truly looking forward to returning to a place that, for me, is a shrine.