Hawaii's Other Would-be Saint: Mother Marianne Cope

Vatican Accepts the Cause of Cohort of Father Damien

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KALAUPAPA, Hawaii, OCT. 30, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Mother Marianne Cope, a Franciscan religious whose mission in Hawaii was linked to that of Father Damien, is on the road to being canonized a saint.

Last Friday “her cause was accepted unanimously by theologians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which supervises the process of beatification and canonization,” said Sister William Marie Eleniki, the Franciscan regional administrator.

The process has thus begun for this nun to be declared venerable, a step toward her possible beatification and canonization.

Mother Marianne and Blessed Damien de Veuster are the only persons connected to Hawaii whose causes are under way, the Honolulu Advertiser reported.

Born in Germany in 1838, Marianne Cope grew up in Utica, New York. She arrived in Hawaii in 1883, in response to King David Kalakaua’s request for assistance for children with leprosy.

At that time Hansen’s disease was described as a “national affliction” in Hawaii. Mother Marianne, who was superior of the Franciscan Convent in Syracuse, New York, answered the call and took six other nuns with her. She remained in the islands until her death in 1918 at age 80.

Mother Marianne worked in Kalaupapa, on the island of Molokai, with Father Damien, during the Belgian priest’s last five months of life. He was beatified in 1995.

A religious of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, Damien de Veuster arrived on Molokai at age 33 to serve the lepers who had been exiled. He too was to die of leprosy in 1889.

Mother Marianne succeeded him in caring for lepers in Kalaupapa and Oahu.

“She worked with authority,” said Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, who is in charge of the research for Mother Marianne’s cause. “She worked with the government more and tried to go through official channels as much as possible. She knew when to raise her voice [and] when it would do no good to do so.”

Mother Marianne’s legacy has inspired books, plays and songs. She is also listed among Hawaii’s historical figures. In addition to creating a home for women with Hansen’s disease in Molokai, she started what is now the Maui Memorial Hospital, the first on this island.

After Father Damien’s death, she took over the administration of the men’s and boys’ home in Molokai.

Her Franciscan order has also had lasting benefits from her years of service. “A fifth of the community is from Hawaii, even though it’s a New York community,” said Sister Eleniki.

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