Anniversary of St. Marianne Cope’s canonization celebrated in diocese
On Oct. 21, 2012, Mother Marianne Cope, a Franciscan nun who lived and ministered in the Diocese of Syracuse and on the islands of Hawaii, was declared a saint by Pope Benedict XVI before a crowd of some 80,000 people in St. Peter’s Square. One year later, the anniversary was marked in the diocese with special celebrations of the “hometown saint.”
Born Barbara Koob in Heppenheim, Germany on Jan. 23, 1838, St. Marianne emigrated to the U.S. with her family in 1839. The family settled in Utica, becoming members of St. Joseph’s Church there. Barbara entered the Sisters of St. Francis religious community in Syracuse in 1862, where she was given the name Sister Marianne. She served as a teacher and principal at several schools in the diocese before beginning her work as a hospital administrator, helping to found both St. Elizabeth Hospital in Utica and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. In 1883, St. Marianne and six other sisters answered the call to minister to patients with Hansen’s disease, known then as leprosy, on the Sandwich Islands, now Hawaii. From 1888 until her death in 1918, St. Marianne provided care for exiled patients on the Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Molokai. Following decades of tireless work to promote her cause for canonization and the confirmation of two miracles due to her intercession — the medical healings of Kate Mahoney of Syracuse and Sharon Smith of Chittenango — Mother Marianne was declared St. Marianne, beloved mother of outcasts, in 2012. Sisters celebrate
The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, joined by Mahoney, Smith and others with devotion to St. Marianne, marked the anniversary with a simple, soulful liturgy at the St. Anthony Convent Chapel in Syracuse — a fitting celebration for an extraordinary woman who once humbly remarked, “I do not think of reward; I am working for God, and do so cheerfully.”
The liturgy began with the blowing of a conch shell and an oli, or chant, offered in Hawaiian by Sister Michaeleen Cabral, OSF, and in English by Sister Felicidad Cadavona, OSF. The oli recounted St. Marianne’s call to the islands and celebrated her work as “an everlasting example for all the world/Loving dedication to the human race.”
Sister Marise May, OSF, delivered a powerful reflection on the far-reaching impact of St. Marianne and her ministries. Many are coming to know the story of St. Marianne, she said, and they are “inspired and amazed” by the work she did for those with Hansen’s disease and they “marvel at her self-sacrifice for these people, at her risk-taking, at her embracing the exile on that lonely peninsula of Kalaupapa,” where patients were sent to live “in pain of body and heart.”
In Central New York, “Who could look at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center today, as large and renowned as it is, and even imagine it as it began, when Marianne and a little band of sisters purchased a saloon and dance hall and turned it into a 15-bed hospital?” she asked. “And who knew that the College of Medicine, which existed at Syracuse University for 80 years, was there because Mother Marianne went to Geneva, [N.Y.] and convinced the authorities to move the medical school from Geneva to Syracuse so that she would have doctors for her hospital?” Always the mother of outcasts, St. Marianne “insisted that all patients be cared for and received and accepted regardless of their race, ethnicity, their ability to pay or their religion,” Sister Marise said, many years before laws banning discrimination were established.
“But her legacy to us is not just buildings, medicine and administrative skills,” she continued. “The legacy of St. Marianne to us [is] the gifts that she received in prayer: courage, determination to help others, hospitality, respect for all. She possessed these virtues to a heroic degree and inspired them in others and encouraged others, especially her sisters, then and now. The legacy of St. Marianne is a legacy of love. St. Marianne, mother of outcasts, and now our mother still, pray for us.”
Following the liturgy, Mahoney reflected on her relationship to St. Marianne. “Twenty years ago, I didn’t even know who Mother Marianne was, and she was interceding in the recovery to give me back my life,” she said. Mahoney’s inexplicable recovery from multiple organ failure in 1993 — resulting from complications related to her chemotherapy treatment for germ cell ovarian cancer — was ruled to be the first miracle due to Mother Marianne’s intercession. “Without disrespecting the authorities, I never needed anyone else to tell me she was a saint. I always believed that she was someone worthy of the greatness that she didn’t buy into. Do I feel her presence? In retrospect, she has been with me before my illness, during my illness, after my illness, and will be with me for the rest of my life. And the title of saint is a bonus.”
Sister Joselle Orlando, OSF, wore a vest she made especially for the occasion from fabric printed with illustrations depicting the life of St. Marianne (available from the Saint Marianne Cope Gift Shop at saintmariannecope.com). “[St. Marianne] has been such an inspiration. I’ve read her life [the biography Pilgrimage & Exile, written by the late Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, OSF, who was Director of the Cause for Mother Marianne for more than three decades] four times and I’ll read it one more time because I get something new every time,” she said. “I’m vocation director for our congregation, so I’m praying that young women, through her intercession, will be inspired and come and join us.”
Sister Grace Anne Dillenschneider, OSF, who served as vice postulator for St. Marianne’s cause, put it simply: “We [the sisters] are all so blessed and so happy that we have one of our own as a saint. But she’s not just ours — she’s a model for anybody and everybody that knows about her…. She left an imprint and a legacy here in Central New York that we are blessed to have. I just get so excited about it. It’s just so beautiful.”
Novena in Utica
St. Joseph-St. Patrick’s Church in Utica, home parish of St. Marianne, held its first novena to the saint over the nine days leading up to the anniversary of her canonization. The days of prayerful devotion featured liturgies and speakers, including Mahoney, Smith, Sister Grace Anne and a number of priests of the diocese. The novena concluded Oct. 20 with Mass, veneration of a first-class relic of St. Marianne and a procession of parishioners from the church to the site of the saint’s home two blocks away.
Ellen Benton, the parish’s St. Marianne Project Coordinator, said the idea for the novena came from pastor Father Richard Dellos. Working with a “wish list” of speakers, she said, the organizers put together a nine-day event themed around St. Marianne’s life and ministry. Benton was “very pleased” with the turnout for the novena, which averaged around 150 attendees per night, and included individuals who made the pilgrimage to Rome for the canonization last year, she said.
“We’ve had reports of healings” following the novena, Benton added, “including my own.” Benton said she had been suffering from a swollen, sore wrist but a few days after praying for St. Marianne’s intercession, she woke up to find the swelling and pain gone.
Benton said the parish hopes to repeat the novena annually. Organizers are asking anyone who attended to complete a questionnaire about the experience; questionnaires are available at the church.
“Little by little, step by step” work will continue to raise St. Marianne up as an example to be emulated and inspired by,” Benton said. “I’m confident that St. Marianne will be as well-known as St. Jude or any of the other [saints],” she said.