Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Its is amazing how many saints knew each other in their lifetime. They say opposites attract but I am sure that those who follow the path of the Lord also attract one another. They seem to support one another in their search for Truth. Examples are Sts. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, who co-founded the Daughters of Charity. In more modern times we have St. Damien of Molokai and the soon to be canonized BLESSED MARIANNE COPE, O.S.F., also known as the Blessed Marianne of Molokai, (1838-1918). She was a member of the Sisters of St Francis of Syracuse, N.Y. In 1883, Mother Marianne, a Superior General of the congregation, received a plea for help in caring for leprosy sufferers from King Kalākaua of Hawaii. More than 50 religious institutes had already declined his request for Sisters to do this. She responded to the letter enthusiastically:
"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".

In 1888 she moved to Kalaupapa, both to care for the dying Father Damien- who was already known internationally for his heroic care of the lepers -and to assume his burdens. She spent many years caring for the lepers on the island of Molokai. Despite direct contact with the patients over many years, Bl. Marianne was not afflicted by the disease, considered by some to be miraculous. The community which she founded on Molokai continues to minister to the few (about 12) patients afflicted with Hansen’s Disease while the Franciscan Sisters also work at several schools and have ministries throughout the Hawaiian islands. While I lived on Oahu I often went to daily Mass at the girls school run by the sisters of her order, in Manoa Valley, just blocks from where I lived.

I was fortunate to visit Kalaupapa, Molokai, when it was still a "leprosarium". Permission had to be obtained from the health department, which was gotten through doctor friends. I then flew in with the mailman, an adventure in itself as the tiny runway was either a hit or miss affair- missing meant going into the waters.  I was told to bring my own lunch in a sack, as there were no facilities for guests. I was met at the two-seater plane by my "guide" for the day, an elder who had contracted Hansen's Disease in the days before the sulfa drugs. She drove the small car with great efficiency, considering she had no fingers on her hands. I met many of the people that day, there being about 100 left in the colony. In the hospital itself there were still the sisters and about  20 patients. All of the people living there were doing so by choice. While their disease had been arrested, they were scarred and felt more comfortable in their "paradise". A fond memory is of the man who filled my lunch bag with gardenias from his garden. Many hedges of this fragrant flower surrounded his small home. When he noticed me smelling the flowers he came outside and told me to take all I wanted and helped me pick them. I found a cheerfulness among these people and a great love for the sisters who cared for them as well as pride in their Father Damien.

Bl. Marianne will be canonized on October 21, 2012, along with BL. KATERI TEKAWITHA. another great North American saint.

1 comment:

  1. M. Hildegard,
    What a wonderful blog you have! I particularly enjoyed the one about Molokai, since that is my ancestral home. My mother was born and raised there, and was the descendant of Protestant missionaries from the Boston area. My great-great-grandfather established the first church on Molokai, long before Father Damien. My great-grandfather wrote the first Hawaiian/English Bible. The second church building, constructed in 1855, still stands at Kaluaaha. -Ned Griffin