Bishop Larry Silva will preside at a Mass celebrating the 180th birthday of St. Marianne Cope, at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, in the Almeida Center at Saint Francis School, 2707 Pamoa Road in Manoa. All are invited.
The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, St. Marianne’s order, also will commemorate her birthday in Kalaupapa on Jan. 21 with a 9:30 a.m. prayer service at the saint’s grave, Mass at 10 a.m. in St. Francis Church, followed by lunch in the parish hall and concluding with a 1:30 p.m. prayer service at St. Philomena Church in Kalawao.
St. Marianne Cope was born Barbara Koob on Jan. 23, 1838, in Hessen, West Germany, the fifth of 10 children of Peter Koob, a farmer, and Barbara Witzenbacher Koob. A year after she was born, the family immigrated to Utica, N.Y., where the surname Koob was eventually changed to Cope. Barbara became a U.S. citizen when her father was naturalized.
She joined the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1862 taking the religious name Marianne.
As a young sister, she served as a teacher and principal in several New York schools. Later, as a member of the Franciscan Sisters’ governing board, she helped establish two of central New York’s first hospitals: St. Elizabeth’s in Utica in 1866 and St. Joseph’s in Syracuse in 1869.
In 1883, Mother Marianne answered a desperate plea from the Hawaiian government for religious nursing sisters to care for leprosy patients. “I am not afraid of any disease,” she said. She and six sister companions arrived in Hawaii on Nov. 8, 1883.
In 1884, at the government’s request, Mother Marianne opened Malulani Hospital, Maui’s first general hospital. On Oahu, she was given full control of the Kakaako Branch Hospital for leprosy patients. In November 1885, she established Kapiolani Home for the female children of leprosy patients.
Two years after she arrived in the Islands, Mother Marianne was honored by King Kalakaua with the medal of the Royal Order of Kapiolani for her acts of benevolence.
In 1887, when the government closed the Kakaako hospital, sending the leprosy patients directly to Kalaupapa, Mother Marianne extended her mission to that Molokai settlement knowing it jeopardized her chance of ever returning home to Syracuse.
“We will cheerfully accept the work,” she said.
Arriving at Kalaupapa with two youthful assistants several months before St. Damien’s death, Mother Marianne assured the ailing priest that she would care for his patients at the settlement’s boys’ home.
Mother Marianne’s treatment of patients was far ahead of its time. She encouraged their education and social growth, irrespective of the fact that they were all dying of a fatal disease.
Robert Louis Stevenson, in a visit to Kalaupapa, praised Mother Marianne and her sisters in verse, describing their presence as “beauty springing from the breast of pain.”
Mother Marianne died on Aug. 9, 1918, of natural causes.
Mother Marianne was buried in the garden of St. Elizabeth’s Convent in Kalaupapa. A monument erected by the patients marks her grave. Pope John Paul II declared Mother Marianne “venerable” in 2004.
Her remains were exhumed in 2005 in preparation for her beatification and laid to rest in a shrine at her motherhouse in Syracuse. Pope Benedict XVI beatified Mother Marianne on May 14, 2005, with Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins presiding over the ceremony in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica.
Pope Benedict XVI canonized Blessed Marianne in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Oct. 21, 2012.
St. Marianne’s remains returned to Hawaii in 2014 for permanent enshrinment in the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace.