On the All-Star Team

Oct. 20-26, 2005
On the All-Star Team
By Karen Kukla/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
SENECA FALLS — When Blessed Marianne Cope pursued a life of service more than 100 years ago, her intentions were not for fame or recognition, but simply to serve people because of her love for God. Little did she know that 143 years after her death, she would join an elite list of women pioneers with a posthumous induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

On Oct. 8, Blessed Marianne — the first person to be beatified in the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI — joined a diverse group of women “whose contributions to the arts, athletics, business, education, government, the humanities, philanthropy and science have been the greatest value for the development of their country. ” She and 11 other “great women” joined 217 existing Hall of Fame members.

Other inductees were Florence Ellinwood Allen, one of the first women to be appointed to key legal positions; Ruth Fulton Benedict, a pioneering anthropologist; Betty Bumpers, former First Lady of Arkansas and champion of issues affecting children’s health, empowering women and world peace; Hilary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady and the first woman U.S. Senator from New York State; Rita Rossi Colwell, a leading scientist; Maya Y. Linn, an architectural designer and sculptor; Patricia Locke, a world-renowned educator and preservationist of Native American culture; Blanche Stuart Scott, a pioneering aviator, and Mary Burnett Talbert, a civil rights, anti-lynching activist, suffragist, preservationist, international human rights proponent and educator.

According to ceremony presider Karen Stone, Blessed Marianne was selected for the honor for work that changed the face of medicine by “establishing two of the first 50 hospitals in New York State, developing rules for sanitation and hygiene and patients’ rights, and transforming health care in Hawaii,” and also for treating people diagnosed with leprosy with compassion, dignity and care. “Her vision, that those marginalized by society be afforded opportunities and access to health care, dignity and equipment treatment and a sense of community and belonging” is engrained in hospitals today, Stone said.

“It’s such a wonderful event which acknowledges the role that women play in our society,” said Sister Grace Ann Dillenschneider, OSF, assistant general minister. Sister Grace Ann was part of a contingency of 40 people who traveled to Seneca Falls to attend the induction ceremony. The group included Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse and Hawaii, and representatives from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Utica and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, and Dr. Paul DeMare, Blessed Marianne’s great-great-great nephew who accepted the award on her behalf. “Part of what has made Mother Marianne so special is that she worked to make a quality of life spirit and wanted to ensure the best life she could for people because they were created by God,” Sister Grace Ann continued. “It’s exactly how she lived her life, and she did this because of her love for God, which transferred into a great love for people. This honor recognizes the strength of her convictions.” Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, OSF, who is director of the canonization process, characterized the experience as a chance to see one recognized for a life of holiness reflected through her work.

“This is a great historical first to our area,” said Sister Mary Laurence. “Most people will not achieve this honor and this shows her charity and sacrifice, but also that people do recognize holiness.” “Our family always said that Mother Marianne wouldn’t want to be called a saint because she wasn’t doing it for recognition; she was doing it as a personal gift to God,” Dr. DeMare said. “In retrospect, she would probably appreciate this honor because it helps the mission of the Catholic Church and humanity in general. She has been, and will be, a great role model. Anytime you do something for one person impacts a lot of people, and what Mother Marianne did with Father Damien [de Veuster] changed the medical practice of the whole world.”

The Hall of Fame has been around for 36 years, but women have traditionally played a role of quiet leadership within the Catholic Church, many of the sisters agreed. “It’s fantastic and she is surely deserving of this honor,” said Sister William Marie Eleniki, OSF, minister from Hawaii. “This is rejuvenating and re-energizing. It shows that each of us is unique in what we do for humanity and there is so much that we can do. Each one of us is responsible for what is happening around us.”

Born Barbara Koob on January 23, 1838 in Heppenheim, Germany, Blessed Marianne and her family immigrated to the United States and settled in Utica when she was a year old. She attended St. Joseph’s Church, then making her First Communion and confirmation at St. John’s Church. Mother Marianne applied for admission to the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis and was invested in the habit of the Order on Nov. 19, 1862 at the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Syracuse. In 1866 she helped found St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Utica, and in 1869, became the primary founder of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse.

According to literature distributed by the National Women’s Hall of Fame, in November of 1883 she accepted an appeal from the king and queen of Hawaii to minister and care for people with leprosy. Blessed Marianne spent 30 of her 35 years in Hawaii working on the Kalaupapa peninsula, located at the northern end of the Island of Molokai. In February 2005, her remains were exhumed for identification and returned “home.” Her remains were flown to Syracuse where they remain today, enshrined in the chapel of the Third Order of St. Francis motherhouse on Grant Boulevard.

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