By Jennika Baines
Sun Associate Editor
Hundreds of faithful filled the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, Jan. 23 to celebrate the feast day of Blessed Mother Marianne Cope.
On the cusp of canonization, Mother Marianne has become a symbol of love and devotion, as well as the source of considerable home-town pride. Should she become canonized, Mother Marianne would be the first saint to come from the Syracuse Diocese.
Bishop Robert Cunningham celebrated the Mass, and he encouraged those gathered to reflect on the unnamed saints they may have known from their own lives.
“This year our diocese will celebrate the 125th anniversary of its founding. Down through that period of time and even before, there have been many saintly people living within our diocese,” Bishop Cunningham said. “Doing so in quiet and saintly ways, they listened for the whisper of God’s voice and acted on the directions contained therein.”
He said that while parents, grandparents and friends will never be publicly recognized as saints, in the hearts of those they loved they will be considered as such because of the legacy of love they have left behind.
Mother Marianne’s legacy of love is still being felt in the Syracuse Diocese today.
Born in Germany, Mother Marianne and her family emigrated to Utica the year after her birth. She entered the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order in Syracuse in 1862.
She helped to open St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Utica in 1866 and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse in 1869. Both hospitals offered help to all, regardless of nationality, religion or color.
“Where others feared to tread, Mother Marianne reached out to those in need: the sick, the elderly, the alcoholic, the outcast,” Bishop Cunningham said.
In 1883, Blessed Marianne Cope received a plea from Hawaiian officials to help people suffering with leprosy there. Of the 50 religious superiors who were contacted, Mother Marianne was the only to respond with a “yes.”
She brought six sisters with her on the arduous journey across the country to Hawaii. She would spend the rest of her life ministering to the people there.
“She would never again return to see family and friends,” Bishop Cunningham said. “Mother Marianne selflessly, cheerfully and courageously accepted God’s will.”
He called those gathered to consider the balance between action and prayer which Mother Marianne responded to and to which every disciple of Christ is similarly called. When so many are so busy, Bishop Cunningham said, it can be tempting to give little time directly in prayer to God.
“The lives of the saints are love stories. It’s the gratuitous love of God that calls to their hearts, draws them to His heart and compells them to reach out in love to each other,” Bishop Cunningham said. “Mother Marianne was able to do it because she had established a personal relationship with God, a relationship of prayer and listening to God’s word. I think if Marianne could speak to us today, she would tell us to do likewise: to listen attentively to the word of God and to act on it by serving our brothers and sisters, especially the least among us.”
Those who came to the Mass were encouraged to stay behind to pray at the reliquary that had been brought to the Cathedral from the Franciscan Motherhouse especially for the feast day celebration.
On Saturday, Jan. 22, Mother Marianne’s life was also celebrated at Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii. The following day a Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in Honolulu by Bishop Larry Silva. This Mass was followed by a prayer service at a statue of Blessed Marianne.
Pope John Paul II issued the decree naming her Venerable in 2003. A year later, he ordered a decree to be issued authenticating a miracle attributed to Mother Marianne’s intercession.
Venerable Marianne Cope was beatified on May 14, 2005. The verification of another miracle due to her intercession will lead to her canonization.