By Katherine Long
St. Peter’s Square in Rome glowed with sunshine and the joy of tens of thousands of pilgrims Oct. 21 when Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed seven faithful servants of God to be the newest saints in the Roman Catholic Church — including a daughter of the Diocese of Syracuse, St. Marianne Cope, and another woman with roots in Upstate New York, St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
St. Marianne was a Sister of St. Francis who lived and ministered in Central New York before traveling to Hawaii to care for patients with Hansen’s disease, work to which she was devoted until her death in 1918. Her cause for canonization was faithfully promoted for decades by the Sisters of St. Francis and others in the Dioceses of Syracuse and Honolulu.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha was a 17th-century Mohawk woman born near what is now Albany who converted to the Catholic faith before moving north to Canada.
Upwards of 80,000 pilgrims (some estimates double that figure) from all over the world packed the square to witness the event. More than 400 of those pilgrims were from the Diocese of Syracuse.
The three-hour celebration included the Rite of Canonization, Mass and the Angelus Prayer. Individuals close to the causes of each saint had the honor of participating in the ceremony and Mass.
To commemorate the momentous and long-anticipated canonizations of St. Marianne and St. Kateri, the Sun asked participants, pilgrims and others connected to the saints to reflect on their experiences. Here, in words and pictures, are highlights from the day.
“As I watched the ceremony, I thought how wonderful it was to have St. Marianne’s picture hanging on the wall of St. Peter’s Basilica. I thought about where she came from — right here in Syracuse — and how she traveled to Hawaii. She was such a humble, good religious sister, she never would have given any thought to having her picture hanging on St. Peter’s.”
— retired Bishop of Syracuse James Moynihan
“I remember seeing the incredible banners hanging from St. Peter’s. There was Marianne Cope — the person who founded St. Joseph’s and who walked in some of the same hallways as we do today.” — Kathy Ruscitto, pilgrim and president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse
“I felt so proud to be Catholic. To see a gathering like that, with people of all nationalities, and to be in the presence of the Holy Father, I was just so happy and proud that God had instilled this faith in me.” —Betty Frank, pilgrim and parishioner of St. Joseph-St. Patrick’s Church in Utica
“I was with my 13-year-old granddaughter, so one of the most important, memorable things for me was being able to hold up two women from New York State as role models of the faith for her. St. Kateri was a young woman who gave everything up for her faith, and St. Marianne even left her family to follow the call of God. It was really wonderful to have her see those examples and have that experience.” — Rosemary Costa, pilgrim from and volunteer and parishioner at the Franciscan Church of the Assumption in Syracuse
“I was overwhelmed by the whole experience of being there, of being the one picked from the congregation — I didn’t even realize my name had been put in to be considered. As I proceeded to the Holy Father, I prayed that the Sisters could continue the legacy of Mother Marianne… 149 years ago, she came to Hawaii. If she had said no, there would be no Sisters here. Where would my life be without Mother Marianne?” — Sister Alicia Damien Lau, OSF, who received Communion from Pope Benedict
“Receiving Communion from our Holy Father was a honor. As I approached the Pope, I prayed especially for the needs and intentions of all my Sisters in Community, my family and my friends. As our Holy Father said, ‘Body of Christ,’ I received the Body of Christ for them when I said, ‘Amen.’”
— Sister Helen Hofmann, OSF, who received Communion from Pope Benedict
“While distributing Communion [at Mass], there was such a sense of reverence in all that was involved, especially as we were returning toward the tabernacle [inside St. Peter’s]. There was a straight line of priests in cassocks and surplices, in total silence, with no one giving direction. It was surreal. To be at St. Peter’s, full of generations of tradition, and to see the Universal Church in the people I distributed to, it was just a very important and amazing experience.” — Father John Donovan, pastor of St. James Church in Johnson City
“To be standing under the obelisk [in St. Peter’s Square] with
some of my best friends surrounding me — it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. When I heard Pope Benedict addressing the life of every saint in her native language and I heard him say [St.] Marianne’s name, it was just incredibly moving.”
— Kathy Pfaffenbach, pilgrim and parishioner of St. James Church in Johnson City
“In the months leading up to the trip, I couldn’t think about [the canonization] without getting overwhelmed with emotion. That day in the square, I saw someone holding the Haudenosaunee flag. Seeing that flag flying in Rome was incredible. That day, Kateri was finally, officially acknowledged as what she is and always has been: a saint.” —Linda Grady, pilgrim and former parishioner of Holy Cross Church in DeWitt now living in Queens, New York
“I was so overcome with emotion being so close a part of the canonization. My sweet memory was leaving the stage with Sharon [Smith] to gather the relic and candles to escort Sharon to the altar. When we came around the side and to the front of the walkway I began to cry — I tear up now — as thoughts of the whole experience took me back to seeing and being with Sharon in the hospital, to [late former cause director] Sister Mary Laurence and back to the ceremony. I felt such honor and blessing had been bestowed upon me.” — Sister Michaeleen Cabral, OSF, who first recognized that Smith’s miraculous cure was due to intercessory prayers to St. Marianne and who escorted Smith in presenting the relic
“Around 2006, I attended a meeting of the council of patients at Kalaupapa, Molokai. At that time they were anxious about how the story of Kalaupapa would continue once they had all gone to their eternal reward. It is a story of sadness and suffering turned into beauty and joy, because of the faith-filled and caring people who had gone to minister there. I remember telling them we should work and pray for the canonizations of Damien and Marianne, because once they were saints, they would be the perpetual and effective story-tellers for all the world. Never did I imagine then that we would have the thrill of witnessing both canonizations within the short period of three years.” — Bishop of Honolulu Clarence Silva, Mass concelebrant
“I was so fortunate to have been blessed with the gift of proclaiming the Universal Prayer in English. Looking out at the crowd of people, and to be there on behalf of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities and the people of Hawaii, was awesome.” — Sister Davilyn Ah Chick, OSF
“When the Pope left the ceremony in his vehicle, he passed within about 30 feet of where we were sitting. He was so close, I could clearly see the expression on his face — he was smiling and happy. He radiates love.” — Dr. Roger Breslow, pilgrim and parishioner of St. Joseph-St. Patrick’s Church in Utica
“It was a tremendous privilege to concelebrate the Mass. Standing at the altar, looking out over the crammed piazza, seeing all the people — it is an unforgettable scene indelibly impressed on my mind. ...[While in Rome] I met a young couple who made the pilgrimage in thanksgiving for [St.] Kateri’s intercession in their lives. It was a blessing to share that experience.” — Bishop of Albany Howard Hubbard, Mass concelebrant
“My original plan was to wake up for the 3:30 a.m. airing and go to the Motherhouse with the Sisters, but we are in a medical reality that requires us to rest and stay on location. [Kate’s father is ill.] I slept in knowing I could see the re-air at 11 a.m. I would like to tell you that we [Kate, her mother, father, and cousin] were somber and quiet, but we were all leaning forward to see if we could identify anyone.... For me, this wasn’t just a day. It wasn’t just a ceremony. It was one significant chapter in a very long and very emotional journey. I needed to let everything sink in: My dad has lived to see our saint canonized. My dad is dying. Sister Mary Laurence got the job done. She isn’t here to hold my hand. I have been given several second chances in life. No pressure there! ...After Mass we toasted to Sister Mary Laurence and all our friends and relatives who have died. Then we had another toast to SAINT Marianne and cheered! At the end of the day, the canonization, the life of St. Marianne Cope, the way our lives intertwined though many years apart… my parents and I believe the message is simple: Show up for each other.” — Kate Mahoney, whose inexplicable medical recovery was the first miracle attributed to St. Marianne’s intercession