By Claudia Mathis
It was 11 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 21, the day that Bl. Marianne Cope finally became a saint. All eyes were focused on the televised canonization Mass at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in Rome. Seventeen women sat in rapt attention in the solarium of St. Anthony Convent and Motherhouse in Syracuse. They were celebrating the accomplishments of a beloved member of their order, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.
Before Mother Marianne left the Motherhouse on Oct. 22, 1883 to begin her mission in Hawaii, she had served 13 years as provincial of the Franciscan community.
Sister Rosemary Bucchi, OSF, was extremely excited. “I’m thrilled and honored,” she said. “It’s a joyful feeling that’s hard to explain — what it’s like to be a part of it.”
Sister Rosemary served as a director of religious education in Willingboro, N.J. before coming to Syracuse on August 31. She was looking for a change in her career, and, after much praying, decided to come to the Motherhouse to work at St. Marianne Cope’s Shrine and Museum. She is responsible for scheduling visits and tours. “I enjoy telling people about Mother Marianne and all the good things she has done,” said Sister Rosemary. “Just like her, our sisters are open to the needs of the church. They are working in our hospitals, not only in New York, but in California, Mexico and North Carolina.”
The sisters celebrated Mother Marianne’s canonization the day before by attending a 4 p.m. Mass in St. Anthony’s Chapel at the Motherhouse and then enjoying a festive dinner.
Many of the sisters at the Motherhouse had watched the first broadcast of the canonization at 3:30 a.m. The sisters had awakened to cinnamon buns, scones and other breakfast foods as part of the celebration.
Sister Joselle Orlando, OSF, vocation minister of the congregation and chairperson for the speaker’s bureau for the Mother Marianne Committee, was one of the 35 people who watched the ceremony at 3:30 a.m. “There is beauty in the formality and ancientness of our rituals,” she said. “They encompass centuries of prayer and reverence.”
Sister Joselle said that she has always loved and admired Mother Marianne. She is especially impressed by the saint’s cheerfulness, love for others and her fearlessness. She has read Mother Marianne’s autobiography, Pilgrimage and Exile, by late Sister Laurence Hanley, OSF, and O.A. Bushnell more than once. “Each time I read it,” Sister Joselle said, “I learn something more about her.”
Sister Joselle isn’t the only person who has been inspired by the saint. Last month, Sister Joselle gave a tour to two women who were inquiring about her order. One of the women, who came from a medical background, was touched by what she had learned about Mother Marianne. Sister Joselle remembered her saying, “I want to go and do what she did!”
Sister Roberta Smith, OSF, General Minister of the Sisters of St. Francis, also watched the coverage of the canonization at 3:30 a.m. “It was fabulous,” said Sister Roberta. “It was fun recognizing the voices of the sisters that we know and it was special seeing our other sisters doing the Prayer of the Faithful and bringing up the offertory gifts.”
Sister Roberta expressed a desire to travel to Hawaii to take part in more celebrations. Ill health prevented her from traveling to Rome to witness the canonization. She is looking forward to attending the Mass of Thanksgiving & Interfaith Ceremony in Honolulu on Nov. 4. “It’ll be a privilege to be part of the procession with the relic from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace to the Iolani Palace,” Sister Roberta said.
Sister Roberta is very impressed by the courage shown by St. Marianne Cope and her sisters as they administered to the lepers in Hawaii. She was also moved by the kindness and caring exhibited by the saint towards the afflicted, as she made their lives as comfortable as possible.
“This is a culmination of a journey of faith for us,” said Sister Roberta. “She’s an example for our community of sisters and for everyone.”