By Patrick Downes
Hawaii Catholic Herald
Hawaii has acquired two more relics of St. Marianne Cope, one for the local community of Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, the Molokai saint’s own religious congregation, and one for the Diocese of Honolulu.
The relics, fragments of the saint’s bones, were obtained from the St. Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum in Syracuse, N.Y., through the efforts of Sister Alicia Damien Lau of the Sisters of St. Francis.
The sisters’ relic is being kept at the congregation’s convent chapel in Manoa.
The diocese’s relic will serve as a “traveling” relic, to be taken upon request to other churches for veneration.
A koa reliquary display cabinet at the Cathedral Basilica of our Lady of Peace holds the full remains for the saint in a sealed metal box wrapped in a Hawaiian quilt with a Hawaiian flag/coat of arms design. Atop the box is a relic on display, also a bone fragment.
The cathedral’s display relic had served previously as a “traveling” relic.
According to Sister Alicia Damien, cathedral parishioners missed the relic when it was taken to other churches for veneration, sometimes for extended periods of time. That is why the diocese requested a second one.
There are approximately 12 display relics of the saint, one for each of the five provinces of the Sisters of St. Francis, two given to the pope on the occasion of St. Marianne’s beatification and canonization, one for the Bishop of Syracuse, two for the Diocese of Honolulu, and one each for St. Marianne’s home parish of St. Joseph/St. Patrick in Utica, N.Y., and Assumption Church in Syracuse, N.Y., where she took her vows, lived and worked.
The bone fragments came from her Kalaupapa gravesite’s soil sifted during her 2005 exhumation in preparation for her beatification. They were being conserved at the St. Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum in Syracuse.
The relics were attached with super-glue to the inside of circular pyxes about one-inch across, which were then permanently sealed with the glue.
The authenticity of the relics were verified in writing by Sister Barbara Jean Donovan, general minister of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, and Kristin Barrett-Anderson, director of the St. Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum.
The pyxes were brought to Bishop Larry Silva’s office on Jan. 18 where each was inset in a 12-inch tall polished koa wood Tau cross reliquary, designed and crafted by Hawaii woodworker Manny Mattos.
The Tau is the “capital T”-shaped cross associated with St. Francis of Assisi.
The new relic displays were first shown and blessed at St. Marianne’s 180th birthday Mass Jan. 23 at St. Francis School in Manoa.
The commission to make the reliquaries came to Mattos last summer while he was escorting Nigerian Archbishop Matthew Man-oso Ndagoso around Oahu. Mattos brought the visiting archbishop to see Bishop Silva who knew of Mattos’ woodworking skills and asked him to make the reliquary for the diocese.
Mattos agreed to make two, the other for the Sisters of St. Francis.
Each reliquary is made of koa wood from the Big Island, the base of 100-year-old kou wood from the grounds of Bishop Museum and the three pegs bracing the cross of lama wood from Waimea Valley on Oahu’s north shore.
All three woods are native to Hawaii.
The beautifully-grained koa hardwood represents St. Marianne’s “strength” of her dedication to the Hawaiian people, Mattos said.
The kou wood, used by ancient Hawaiians to make calabashes and platters for food, represents the “nourishment” St. Marianne provided her patients, he said. And the light-colored lama wood signifies the “enlightenment” her strength and sustenance provided.
Mattos asked his friend Chris Kamaka of Kamaka Ukuleles to provide the same highly polished coating he puts on his instruments.
Mattos, a former Honolulu police officer who has worked with wood for more than 25 years, feels blessed to provide the receptacles for the saint’s relics. He feels that he and the saint have crossed paths several times in his life, as when he kept guard at the cathedral over the remains of St. Marianne when they were returned to Hawaii a couple of years ago.
And “two years ago, I was also at the chapel in Manoa venerating her,” he said.
And twenty-five years ago when, by happenstance, he came to possess a 1917 sheet of music by famed Royal Hawaiian Band director Henry Berger, a song written about Mother Marianne, which he now treasures.
He cited a number of other occasions when a connection to St. Marianne and Kalaupapa revealed itself.
Manny Mattos said he intends to donate the money he receives for making the reliquaries to Archbishop Ndagoso of Kaduna, Nigeria, and the archdiocesan seminary program there which has 150 young men studying for the priesthood. Call him at 808-896-6424 if you would like to contribute to the cause.