10/18/12 | 1003 views
Long Journey Led This New Yorker to Sainthood
Blessed Marianne Cope, who is being canonized by Pope Benedict XVI along with Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and five more new saints on World Mission Sunday, Oct. 21, is actually a good New York story with a far-flung twist.
The German-born nun’s New York roots are in the Diocese of Syracuse, where she served as a teacher and principal, a pioneer in hospital work and administration, and a leader of her religious community after entering the Sisters of St. Francis there in 1862.
However, Mother Marianne is best known for dedicating the last 30 years of her life exclusively to caring for those with Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, on the Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai, Hawaii.
In making the commitment to serve patients who were exiled to Kalaupapa, Mother Marianne understood that she would never again return to New York. A biography provided by the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, as her community is known today, said that her response to an appeal by the government in Hawaii seeking someone to found a new home for women and girls with leprosy stated that she and her fellow sisters will “cheerfully accept the work…”
Sister Roberta Smith, O.S.F., the general minister of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, said Mother Marianne’s mission story still serves as an inspiration to her successors as Franciscan women religious.
“Our community as a whole is on a faith journey, leaving what we’ve known to create something new,” Sister Roberta said. “Our journey mirrors hers.”
She was speaking about the decision that three communities of Franciscan religious sisters in Hastings-on-Hudson, Syracuse and Williamsville, near Buffalo, made in 2004 to join together and form the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.
Sister Roberta herself originally served for many years in the archdiocese. She was director of religious education at St. Ursula’s parish in Mount Vernon, and earlier served on the pastoral staff at Ascension and St. Teresa’s parishes in Manhattan and as a teacher at St. Eugene’s School in Yonkers.
She served in leadership positions with the Sisters of St. Francis in Hastings-on-Hudson and then for eight years was on the council of the newly formed congregation until she was elected general minister in July.
The cause of canonization of Mother Marianne “was a very unifying factor” as the individual communities moved toward a merger, Sister Roberta said. Mother Marianne was declared venerable in 2004, the same year that the merger took place, and she was beatified the following year.
As Mother Marianne’s canonization takes place at the Vatican this weekend, Sister Roberta said the community is rejoicing that the story of her life of faith and service is becoming better known. “It’s an exciting time for New York state, with Kateri and Marianne Cope being canonized. Word about her is getting out more now,” she said.
The community is grateful and proud of the work of one of its own, Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, who had served as the director of Mother Marianne’s cause for 37 years until her own death last December just as the cause was receiving final approval at the Vatican.
“She was so committed,” Sister Roberta said. “She was very dedicated to Mother Marianne’s cause…She wanted to be precise about our community and make sure all the facts were correct.”
This week a group of pilgrims from Hawaii, led by Bishop Larry Silva of the Diocese of Honolulu, stopped to visit churches and other sites in the Syracuse Diocese connected with Mother Marianne’s life. The group, including several people who have Hansen’s disease, accompanied by their nurses, continued on to Rome for the canonization.
A group of about 100 Sisters of St. Francis and their associates, relatives and friends will also be traveling to Rome. Their number includes Sharon Smith, whose recovery from a life-threatening illness was accepted as the second miracle due to Mother Marianne’s intercession.
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