A saint’s story

New shrine and museum honors St. Marianne Cope’s life, legacy

Visitors to the new Saint Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum are greeted by a photo of the local saint alongside a large stained glass window depicting St. Francis of Assisi encountering a man with Hansen’s disease (leprosy). It’s a meaningful pairing: St. Marianne, a Sister of St. Francis who was raised and ministered in upstate New York in the 1800s, spent the last 35 years of her life caring for patients with Hansen’s disease on the islands of Hawaii. The window itself came from the original chapel at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, the hospital St. Marianne helped to found in 1869. And the site of the new museum — 601 North Townsend St., on the St. Joseph’s campus — further underscores St. Marianne’s connection to and influence on the area.

   “This [St. Joseph’s Hospital] was one of her early ministries,” said Sister Roberta Smith, OSF, general minister of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, at a July 1 blessing of the museum and shrine in advance of its July 8 opening. “We’re following in her footsteps.” She hopes that all visitors, but especially those who are at the hospital with a loved one who is ill, “can come down here and visit the museum and be inspired by her [St. Marianne’s] life and be consoled by it.”

   St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center President and CEO Kathryn Ruscitto expressed similar sentiments. “What a gift they [the Sisters of St. Francis] have given, not only to our employees and the members of the St. Joe’s family, but what a gift they’ve given to the community,” she said. “We now have our history permanently on our campus and a place where our employees and families of patients can visit and hopefully be inspired.”

   The museum’s extensive photos, artifacts and displays trace St. Marianne’s story, from her childhood in Utica, to her extraordinary ministries throughout the diocese and Hawaii, to her canonization in 2012. Exhibits also explore the Franciscan charism, the development of St. Joseph’s Hospital and the day-to-day lives of the sisters and patients in Hawaii. Archives and a research library are also available. A first-class relic of St. Marianne is enshrined in the museum’s second gallery, offering visitors a place for quiet contemplation and prayer.

   Bishop Robert J. Cunningham celebrated the first Eucharistic liturgy in the space July 1. In his homily, he spoke of St. Marianne’s journey. She “did not hesitate to respond to a call, to go out into the deep and experience something new. So off to Hawaii she went, with the same goal of serving God’s people who were in need. She carried with her the cross of Christ, and planted it firmly not only in the soil of Hawaii, but in the hearts and minds of those whom she was called to serve.” The day’s celebration served to bless the new museum and dedicate it “to our beloved Marianne,” he said, but more importantly to “commit ourselves anew to her work. We, too, desire to plant the cross in the hearts and minds of those we are privileged to serve, here in Syracuse, here in this hospital, throughout the diocese and wherever Franciscans are found, passing on the faith.”

   The Saint Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum is located at 601 N. Townsend St., Syracuse. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays; it is closed on Sundays and Mondays. For more information, visit
www.saintmariannecope.org or call (315) 422-7999.

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