Saint Marianne Cope


Saint Mariannae Cope (also known as Saint Marianne of Moloka'i) was born as Barbara Koob on January 23, 1838 in the town of Heppenheim (then part of the Grand Duchy of Hesse - now part of Germany). Year after her birth and baptism, the family moved to Utica, New York in the United States. She left school in the eighth grade to work in a factory to support the family - though her father would soon be naturalized as a citizen, he suffered from a terrible disability that left him unable to work. Saint Marianne received her citizenship when her father was naturalized and continued studying and working to support the family.


In 1862 her father passed away and Saint Marianne joined the novitiate of the Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis in New York. She took the new name Marianne and became a teacher for the schools that had recently been opened for the rising numbers of German-speaking immigrants. Saint Marianne became a member of the governing council in 1879 and helped to found two Catholic hospitals in New York. These hospitals were formed under the stipulation that care was to be provided to any who came - there would be no discrimination by race or religion allowed. She would soon be appointed to govern Saint Joseph's hospital in 1870, a post she would keep until 1877. During this time she helped move Geneva Medical College of Hobart College from Geneva to Syracuse where it would be renamed as the College of Medicine at Syracuse University.


By 1883, Saint Marianne had become the Superior General of the Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis. She received a letter from King Kalakaua of Hawaii who was in dire need of help to care for local leprosy suffers. By the time Saint Marianne received the request, over 50 different orders had turned King Kalakaua down. Saint Marianna replied with:


I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen Ones, whose privilege it will be, to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor Islanders... I am not afraid of any disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned 'lepers.'

The sisters and Saint Marianne travelled at once to Hawaii, first to Honolulu to supervise and manage the Kaka'ako Branch Hospital on O'ahu and then a year later to Maui where they founded Malulani hospital, the very first general hospital on the island. King Kalakaua awarded Saint Marianne with the Cross of a Companion of the Royal Order of Kapiolani for the care and work she had done for his people. Saint Marianne opened the Kapiolani Home to provide shelter to the homeless female children of leprosy patients. In 1887, the government of Hawaii changed course and demanded the exile of all leprosy patients to Molokai. The government begged Saint Marianne to form a home for women and girls on the island though it would mean that she would likely never get the chance to return home to New York. She accepted the role with a smile.


Saint Marianne died on August 9th, 1918 to local causes and was buried on the grounds of the Bishop Home. In 1993, Katherine Dehlia Mahoney prayed to Saint Marianne (then not a Saint yet) for intercession after suffering from multiple organ failure. Three doctors noted that the majority of her organs had stopped working, including her kidney, heart and lungs. She was kept alive only by machines. Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, the director of the Cause of Mother Marianne visited the young girl, praying for Mother Marianne's help and intercession before touching her with a relic. The very same week, Katherine began experiencing signs of recovering and her vital organs began working at full strength with no medical explanation.


With the first miracle confirmed, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared Saint Marianne "heroically virtuous" (officially on October 24, 2003). Saint Pope John Paul II declared her Venerable on April 19th, 2004 and in December of the same year decreed that the miracle was indeed authentic. Pope Benedict XVI beatified her on May 14th, 2005, in his first beatification ceremony. Shortly before the ceremony, when word got out that she was to be beatified, her remains were moved to the motherhouse of the congregation in Syracuse.


The same year, 2005, Sharon Smith (58 at the time) passed out while walking in her home in Syracuse. She woke up in the hospital two months later to find out she had developed a severe inflammation that was killing her pancreas. Several surgeries proved to be ineffective and doctors explained that her other organs would shut down soon. Sharon began preparing for her final days. A sister visiting the hospital left a prayer card of Mother Marianne and began visiting her frequently. One day they pinned a small plastic bag of soil from Mother Marianne's grave to her hospital gown. Several days later, the hole that had formed between her stomach and intestine was completely healed and the inflammation gone. Doctors found no possible reason for the sudden healing.


The Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared the miracle authentic on December 6th, 2011. Pope Benedict signed and approved the promulgation of the decree of Sainthood on December 19th, 2011 and formally canonized her on October 21, 2012. Her feast day is set for January 23rd and she is honored as the Patron Saint of lepers, outcasts and Hawai'i.

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