Debate Magazine

St. Marianne Cope

By Eowyn @DrEowyn

Marianne was born on January 23, 1838, to Peter and Barbara Cope of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany.  Approximately two years later, the Cope family migrated to the United States, settling in Utica, New York.  Initially, Barbara worked in a factory until 1862, but heard a calling to the religious life.  She chose to make her profession with the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York.  Thereafter, she taught at the Assumption Parish School.

Marianne held the offices of superior and twice she was the novice mistress of her Order.  On three occasions, she was appointed to serve as superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse.  Her experience at this hospital would prove to be most beneficial.

In 1877, Marianne was elected provincial and then re-elected to that position in 1881.  Two years later, the Hawaiian government searched for an individual to head the Kakaako Receiving Station for people who were suspected of suffering from leprosy, wherein 50 religious communities were invited to attend to this call.  As to the sisters of St. Francis, 35 sisters agreed to serve in this capacity.

Accordingly, on October 22nd, 1883, Mother Marianne and six other sisters left for this Station located outside Honolulu, on the island of Maui.  They started a school for girls and also a hospital.

In 1988, once again Mother Marianne answered God’s call, going to Molokai with two other sisters to open a home for “unprotected women and girls.”  Indeed and in fact, she took over the home that Damien de Veuster, known as St. Damien of Molokai, established for men and boys.  She instituted changes in the colony, teaching the people about cleanliness, pride and fun.  She taught about enjoying colors, where the women were encouraged to wear bright clothing.

The Hawaiian government awarded Mother Marianne the Royal Order of Kapiolani, wherein she was even honored in a poem written by Robert Louis Stevenson.  This resourceful and courageous leader continued her hard work with her sisters, and still today, the sisters of that Order serve on Molokai.

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