The Last Stop of Her Journey

March 10 – March16
VOL 124 NO. 9
The Last Stop of Her
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
UTICA –– In the last stop of retracing the journey of Mother Marianne Cope, her remains were brought back to St. Joseph/St. Patrick Church –– where at the age of two Mother Marianne, then know as Barbara Koob, moved from Germany with her family. On Sunday, March 6 two of her descendants sat in the front row of the church and joined more than 1,200 people to welcome Mother Marianne at a Mass and celebration. “This is the last stop on her journey, her parish,” said Sister Grace Anne Dillenschneider OSF, assistant general minister of the Franciscan Order. “After this she returns permanently to her Franciscan family at our Motherhouse Chapel on Court Street. It was here on Schuyler Street that she learned her values from her family, who taught by their example, to have great faith and love for God. For five years she attended St. Joseph’s School, where the values she learned at home were enforced.

“This is her neighborhood,” Sister Grace Anne continued. “These are the streets she walked, the place where she grew up, working in a factory until the death of her father after which she was able to become a Sister of St. Francis.” Sister Grace Anne told the congregation that as the Sisters prepare to celebrate Mother Marianne and her beatification scheduled for May 15 in Rome, they wanted to connect with the place where Mother Marianne lived her early life.

In a church that holds 1,000, hundreds more stood in aisles and in the vestibule to take part in the Mass. “The people of St. Joseph/St Patrick Parish are proud,” said parishioner Mary Nadeau, a member of the planning committee. “Not only the Catholics, but all of our neighbors throughout Utica are proud and excited. This is our time to celebrate.”

Sunday, March 6, the fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday. The Latin word, Laetare means rejoice. It was a very appropriate day to welcome Mother Marianne back to the Utica community.

It was at St. Joseph’s Parish that Barbara Koob attended church and school as a young German immigrant. She received her First Holy Communion and Confirmation at Historic Old St. John’s Church in Utica. This was her old neighborhood, and it was at St. Joseph’s where she first found her call to religious life as a Franciscan Sister.

Father Richard Dellos, pastor of St. Joseph/St. Patrick’s Church, said that it was a humbling experience to be in the presence of Mother Marianne. “What a beautiful way to celebrate Laetare Sunday,” he said. In his homily, Father Dellos spelled out the word mother and explained why Mother Marianne fit the description so accurately: “M is for managing things in life. O is for her love of outcasts. T is for the tact she showed in all of her relationships. H is for humility. E is for empathy and R is for her sense of resolution to get things done.

“She had the gift of administration,” Father Dellos continued. “Mother Marianne exercised vigilance and knew how to motivate people. She graciously led people without their resentment. She had a great love for outcasts –– the lepers. So few took on the responsibility, but Mother Marianne was eager to do it. She did not focus on appearances. She looked at her heart.”

Father Dellos went on to explain the tact Mother Marianne took when dealing with medical students. “She smoothed the way, smoothed egos and treated everyone with the utmost respect.” In talking of Mother Marianne’s humility, Father Dellos said that she was a self-effacing woman and considered herself unimportant as a person and always avoided being the focus of attention. Mother Marianne showed great empathy for others. “She took care of her parents, supported them by working at the mill which delayed her religious vocation until after they died. Later, her compassion worked wonders for her patients. She showed deep faith and was a nurse in the fullest sense -–– both physically and spiritually.”

Helen Ruff, great-great niece of Mother Marianne, said that her faith was instilled in her from the very beginning. “Mother Marianne used to tell my mother, ‘You have four girls. Won’t you give one to the convent?’ My mother said if we had an inclination to go, she would help us.” While Helen and her sisters did not enter the convent, like Mother Marianne, they led a very prayerful life. “My mother taught us catechism every day,” said Helen. “At night, my father would question us on it. We would have two sessions of catechism a day.”

“Mother Marianne knew that God gave her a mission,” said Father Dellos speaking of Mother Marianne’s resolution. “She led a purpose-driven life. No one or nothing would keep her from that mission. She is a bright light shining in a dark world.”

Included among the more than 1,200 people present at the Mass were the Knights of Columbus, the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher, the Knights of St. John, the Knights of St. Anthony, St. Michael’s Lancers, more than 50 Franciscan Sisters and 20 priests, including several from the Eastern Rite Church.

“It was a beautiful Mass,” said great-great niece Marion Ruff. “I never expected to see so many people there. The church was packed.”

“I’m so glad they had the Hawaiian music,” added Helen. “It was just the right touch.” The sisters were thrilled to be able to attend the Mass. “It was quite an experience, to be taken out [of St. Joseph’s Nursing Home]. We didn’t think we’d be able to go but Sister Xavier offered us the chance. We were so grateful.” Sister M. Xavier Francis Russo, O Carm., is a nurse at St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Utica where the Ruffs reside.

“When Mother Marianne is beatified on May 15, she will be one step closer to being proclaimed a saint in the Universal Church,” said Father Dellos. “This is a woman who did not even want her picture taken. Now, her story will be told everywhere, for all time.”

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