Editor’s note: The following article appears in the Sun courtesy of the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Honolulu.
By Patrick Downes and
Darlene Dela Cruz
Hawaii Catholic Herald
KALAUPAPA, Molokai — Hawaii held its final major event celebrating the canonization of St. Marianne Cope in the same place she practiced her inexhaustible charity, mostly unseen, for three decades.
On Jan. 12, in Kalaupapa, at Bishop Home, the former destination of scores of women and girls with Hansen’s disease and Mother Marianne’s home from 1888 to 1918, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate Molokai’s second saint with a Mass, music, a luau, a play and an abundance of camaraderie.
Special guests of Bishop Larry Silva included apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Pope Benedict XVI’s representative to the United States; Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Bishop Robert Cunningham, the Bishop of Syracuse, N.Y., where St. Marianne lived the first half of her life.
All three bishops had attended the canonization of Mother Marianne Cope by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on Oct. 21. None of them had ever before been to Hawaii.
Also present was Bishop Peter Paul Yelesuome Angkyier of the Diocese of Damongo, Ghana.
The week of rain and gusty winds that preceded the event ended early on the morning of the celebration, leaving the settlement uncommonly green, wet, refreshed and still.
Small planes made 17 flights delivering outside guests, mostly from Honolulu, nine passengers at a time, to the tiny airport over a span of three hours. At the airport terminal, a large hand-painted banner displayed the words “Celebrate St. Marianne.”
Arriving early, the visiting bishops were given a brief tour of the peninsula’s key landmarks, including St. Philomena Church, partially built by St. Damien, in Kalawao on the peninsula’s far east side where Cardinal Dolan led morning prayer.
The group paused for a moment of reflection at the saint’s grave and ended the tour at the spot overlooking the scenic landing area at the base of towering cliffs.
The rest of the guests gathered at Bishop Home, named for the Protestant Honolulu businessman Charles Reed Bishop who financed the original building, in the center of Kalaupapa town where the National Park Service had set up tents for Mass.
The Hansen’s disease settlement of Kalaupapa, Molokai, has been a U.S. National Historical Park since 1980.
Bishop Silva presided at the Mass accompanied by the visiting bishops, 11 priests and five deacons.
In his homily, Bishop Silva used the metaphor of a “rising star” to describe the shining talent, the luminous charity and the bright sanctity of St. Marianne.
“This rising star quickly changed the darkness, neglect and filth of a warehouse for the rejected into a place of light, dignity and joy,” he said.
But “she knew that her light was a mere guiding star to the merciful healing brilliance of Christ,” he said, “and that day by day he would grow greater as she became smaller, ever narrowing her world.”
“Mother Marianne was not just a star that flashed in the heavens long ago, but she has now been fixed as a heavenly light for all time, so that she can continue to shine on Christ wherever he may be found,” Bishop Silva said.
In remarks spoken at the end of Mass, Archbishop Vigano thanked Bishop Silva for inviting him to “share this great joy with all these people, priests and bishops who are joined in this celebration so beautiful, so full of grace.”
“I have come to touch the soil that is very much alive with the sanctity of the charity of Mother Marianne,” he said.
“Her love was so great that she was able to spend all her life in charity, being able to recognize in every human being the presence of God, and being herself a humble servant of each one that needed her help,” the archbishop said.
“This day is full of mercy and reward for each one of us, and particularly for me,” said Archbishop Vigano. “I will certainly tell the Holy Father … how all the people of Hawaii have recognized the gift that has been given to them by the Lord through St. Marianne.”
Sister Roberta Smith of Syracuse, general minister of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, St. Marianne’s order, also addressed the congregation after the Mass.
“Mother Marianne’s virtues modeled for us today send a message for us to go and do likewise,” Sister Roberta said. “We would do her a great disservice if we only just remembered her. … It is her example of self-sacrificing love that calls us over the decades and calls us to follow her example.”
Sister Roberta said “the living legacy of Mother Marianne” would be the same as St. Francis’ instruction, “I have done what is mine to do, may Christ teach you what is yours to do.”
“May we have the courage and compassion and tenderness and kindness to respond likewise to those in need,” she said.
After Mass, a luau served the standard fare of kalua pig and poi, sweet potato and lomi salmon, plus a variety of raw fish and crab.
Speaking to the Hawaii Catholic Herald after the luau, Bishop Cunningham said it was “a very moving experience” to be in Kalaupapa and to meet and “rejoice with” the current residents.
“I’m enjoying the warmth of their hospitality and the friendship,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of new people and heard a lot of new things and it just makes me want to learn more and more about Mother Marianne and about the people here at Kalaupapa and the Diocese of Honolulu.”
Bishop Cunningham said he has long known and admired the work of the Franciscan Sisters “and their dedication to serve the needs of people in education and healthcare and their pastoral ministry.”
“So it’s a great honor to come this far and to see how these people have worked here,” he said. “There’s a close bond of connection and affection between the sisters here and the sisters in Syracuse.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, speaking to the Hawaii Catholic Herald, said it had been a “lifetime dream” to go to Kalaupapa.
He said Father Damien, Kalaupapa’s first saint canonized in 2009, was “a towering influence” is his life since he learned about him in the second grade.
He called St. Marianne Cope “someone whom I’ve recently fallen in love with, because I am so proud of her as a citizen of New York State.”
The cardinal said that although leprosy is no longer a scourge in Hawaii, the work that called these two saints into service still remains.
“There will always be what you might call the ‘uns’ of the world,” he said. “There’s always going to be the unwanted. There’s always going to be the undocumented. There’s always going to be the unhoused. There’s always going to be the unemployed. There’s always going to be the unborn. There’s always going to be those considered unclean and unwanted and untouchable, and those are where followers of Jesus and his church need to be.
The day-long event was coordinated and hosted by the National Park Service.
Steve Prokop, the superintendent Kalaupapa National Historical Park, said, “An event like this really brings the whole community together because we all have a common purpose … to honor Mother Marianne and the patients of Kalaupapa, who are really the glue that keeps our community together.”
“Our mission here at Kalaupapa is to interpret the stories of the people of Kalaupapa and to preserve those stories,” Prokop said. “People such as Mother Marianne, who is central to many of the stories, is why we wanted to put on a really glorious celebration today.”
Fewer than 20 “patients,” sent to Kalaupapa in the 1950s and 1960s because they had Hansen’s disease or leprosy, still call the isolated five-square-mile peninsula their home.
Prokop said that while 500 were signed up to attend the event, the bad weather prior probably kept some away. The number of attendees to the invitation-only event was a rare exception to settlement rules, which limit visitors to 100 a day.