‘I am hungry for the work’

Jan.26- Feb. 1, 2006
‘I am hungry for the work’
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
Syracuse Diocese Marks the First Feast Day of Blessed Marianne Cope

It has taken trips to Hawaii and Rome, along with years of anticipation and hard work, but finally the Sisters of St. Francis celebrated the first feast day Mass in honor of Blessed Marianne Cope on Sunday, Jan. 22, one day before her designated feast day, Jan. 23. Other celebrations were planned across the diocese including at both of the hospitals Mother Marianne helped found, St. Elizabeth’s in Utica and St. Joseph’s in Syracuse. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was filled for Sunday’s Mass which was celebrated by Bishop James Moynihan with Bishop Thomas Costello at his side. Mother Marianne’s remains were moved from the St. Anthony Motherhouse to the Cathedral for the event. A few of her relatives were also present, along with many of the Sisters of St. Francis.

General Minister Sister Patricia Burkard, OSF, welcomed everyone and said Mother Marianne served as a role model to the Sisters through her life as an unassuming woman who promoted health care, education and compassion, as well as living a life of courage and healing. Mother Marianne was born in Germany and moved to Utica as a toddler. Father Richard Dellos, pastor of St. Joseph/St. Patrick Church in Utica where she received her sacraments, was also present at the altar for the Mass. Mother Marianne entered the Sisters of St. Francis community in 1862 when she was 24, after she had helped her family by working in a textile factory. Mother Marianne heeded the request of the bishop of Honolulu in 1883 when he was searching for sisters to care for the lepers on Molokai. Mother Marianne wrote back then, “I am hungry for the work.” For 35 years she lived on the Hawaiian Island serving the outcasts and inspiring those around her, author Robert Louis Stevenson among them.

The Sisters’ Choir from the St. Anthony Motherhouse led the music at the Mass. They also sang the opening song, “O Makalapua,” a favorite of Mother Marianne. Sister Grace Anne Dillenschneider, OSF, assistant minister general, said a few days before the Mass that it would serve as a sort of “culmination” of the year’s events surrounding Mother Marianne’s cause for sainthood. She was beatified in Rome in May of 2005.

“It was one year ago that we brought her remains back [from Hawaii],” Sister Grace Anne said. “It is only fitting and just that the first celebration of her feast day take place with a liturgy at the Cathedral.” She pointed out that celebrations in Hawaii and Peru with the Sisters there would also take place. “Mother Marianne was a model for us by her faith in God and her belief of the care and compassion we need to extend to others,” Sister Grace Anne said.

Bishop Moynihan related the Gospel of Mark during his homily on Sunday. He spoke of the call of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee where the fishermen became “fishers of men.” The bishop said Peter and his brother, Andrew, and James and his brother, John, had put everything aside to follow Jesus. He then said Mother Marianne did the same when she heard God’s call, “Come after Me,” in the invitation of the bishop of Honolulu. “By that time she was Provincial Superior of her order,” Bishop Moynihan said, “but when the invitation came she did not hesitate to respond. Like Isaiah, she said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’”

Reading about the life of Jesus can leave one amazed by His inclusivity, the bishop said. He said Jesus’ love of all people was an expression of His theology. “It was also the theology of Mother Marianne. She loved those lepers, with their devastated faces, their spreading sores and their decaying limbs. She loved them even more than she loved her very self,” he said. Mother Marianne drew her strength from her faith, Bishop Moynihan said. She sought no honor or glory for her work. She wrote, “I do not expect a high place in heaven. I will be very grateful to have a little corner where I can love God for all eternity.” Near the end of his homily, the bishop said, “Now we take pleasure in knowing that she has been assigned a corner larger than any she could have possibly imagined.”

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Moynihan congratulated Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, OSF, for her years of work on the cause for Mother Marianne. He said the biography of Mother Marianne written by Sister Mary Laurence was an amazing work. “What a blessing it is for Blessed Mother Marianne to have this written testimony of her life’s work.” The audience answered with warm applause for the sister who has made her life’s work that of promoting Mother Marianne’s cause for sainthood. The Mass was the realization of her work as well.

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