Mother Marianne Cope, who took a train out of Syracuse in 1883 leaving from the then Court Street Motherhouse of Franciscan Sisters to begin her famed works of compassion with leprosy patients in the Hawaiian Islands, is a step closer to sainthood.
Physicians at a medical board meeting at the Vatican ruled officially on June 16 there is no medical explanation for the cure of a once acutely ill woman who suffered from an alleged irreversible fatal health condition. The board concluded the woman’s healing was inexplicable according to available medical knowledge. The doctors on the case expected her to die and were amazed scientifically at her survival.
Sister Patricia Burkard, OSF, general minister of the sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, said there is real reason to rejoice at this advancement in the study of the miracle case not only for the Franciscan sisters and other Blessed Marianne’s devotees but in particular for all who unselfishly care for others and do acts of charity known only to God.
Sister Patricia observed that, “Mother Marianne was ‘the human face’ of the Gospel’s mandate to care for the hungry, the sick and the impoverished. We pray for success in the case so that her inspirational life will be better known throughout the world. She is a model for us all.”
The Sisters of St. Francis, who still have a residence on Court Street in Syracuse and now a shrine to Blessed Marianne on the property, received the news from Msgr. Robert J. Sarno. Msgr. Sarno, an American-born priest at the Congregation of Saints, has been working with Father Ernesto Piacentini, cause postulator, in the written presentation of the miracle case at the Vatican.
A board of theologians must evaluate the intercessory role of Blessed Marianne. The next step in the process of examining the miracle case is the convening of a board of theologians who will decide whether or not the healing was the result of prayer for Blessed Marianne’s intercession. If the theologians’ conclusion is positive, a board of cardinals and bishops of the Congregation meet to examine all the issues of the case. They give their evaluation and reach a conclusion. If it is in favor of canonization, they present it to the Holy Father who makes the final determination.
Mother Marianne Cope – An Innovative Leader
IN SYRACUSE: Mother Marianne was the primary foundress of St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Care Center, the first hospital in Syracuse. In 1872, she accepted students for classes in clinical instruction from Geneva Medical College. The college soon moved to Syracuse to become part of Syracuse University. Upstate Medical University Hospital in Syracuse traces its origin to this humble beginning.
While head of St. Joseph’s, ever the innovative leader, Mother Marianne introduced new concepts of sanitation at the hospital, such as insisting on hand cleansing on the part of all employees before caring for patients. She also became a patients’ rights advocate insisting that the patients’ wishes be honored in regard to their being brought before medical students.
RESPONSE TO NEED: In 1883, as head of her religious community, Mother Marianne led the first nurses’ contingent to the Hawaiian Islands to establish a system of nursing care for those with leprosy (Hansen’s Disease). More than 50 other religious communities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe had been approached for aid. She was the only leader to accept the challenge.
IN HAWAII: The Hawaiian government made it known that the success of the Hawaiian mission of Franciscan sisters depended on her remaining as its leader. Mother Marianne gave up her leadership position in Syracuse and spent five years at the hospital mission in Honolulu setting up a system of care and education for the long-term patients and starting a home for their female children who would be endangered if sent to Molokai.
In 1888, she moved to Molokai at the request of new government officials in Hawaii who decided to renew the policy of sending all patients with leprosy to the settlement at Kalaupapa, Molokai.
At her death in 1918 in Molokai the Honolulu paper read: “Seldom has the opportunity come to a woman to devote every hour of 30 years to the mothering of people isolated by law from the rest of the world. She risked her own life in all that time, faced everything with unflinching courage and smiled sweetly through it all.”