Ruling puts Kalaupapa nun
on the path to sainthood

Mother Marianne Cope: She was known for brightening the days of her young patients

The Vatican approved the "heroic virtue" yesterday of Mother Marianne Cope, putting on the road to sainthood the nun who worked for more than 30 years with leprosy patients at Molokai's Kalaupapa settlement.

Mother Marianne takes her first of three official steps to canonization 21 years after her cause was launched by her order of St. Francis sisters in Syracuse, N.Y. It was one of a series of decrees on sainthood causes approved yesterday by Pope John Paul II.

The news was met with excitement by followers of the Roman Catholic nun, from Rome to New York to Kalaupapa.

"I'm grateful because I think that this woman of God is extraordinary," said Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, director of the nun's canonization cause at the headquarters for the St. Francis nuns in Syracuse and co-author of "Pilgrimage and Exile: Mother Marianne of Molokai." "She's just so cheerful and so consistent in being good."

The Syracuse nuns planned to celebrate a special Mass and enjoy a Hawaiian supper yesterday in Marianne's honor.

At St. Joseph's School in Hilo, students said a prayer of thanksgiving for the movement of Mother Marianne's cause.

"I'm sure Mother Marianne, in her own humble way, is wishing that the limelight wasn't on her," said the principal, Sister Marion Kikukawa, a St. Francis nun.

Mother Marianne, born Barbara Koob in Germany in 1838, took the name Marianne in 1862 when she joined the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in New York.

When the Kingdom of Hawaii sought help caring for leprosy patients at the Kakaako Branch Hospital in 1883, Mother Marianne and six other sisters volunteered to go to Honolulu.

"We were not only willing, but anxious to go and care for the poor outcasts," Cope wrote.

Five years later, when she was asked to supervise a new home for girls in Kalaupapa, she accepted and moved to the isolated peninsula on Molokai.

She was known for brightening the otherwise dismal days of her young patients, sewing them clothes, taking them on picnics, planting trees and flowers, and playing piano as they sang.

Mother Marianne eventually took over Kalaupapa's home for boys, too. In all, she stayed for 30 years, until she died in 1918 at 80.

Marianne joins a man she worked with, Belgian missionary Father Damien de Veuster, on her path to sainthood. Father Damien died of leprosy after 16 years in Kalaupapa. He has already been named blessed, and the Vatican is now reviewing a second miracle attributed to Damien that could qualify him for sainthood.

Three years ago a Diocese of Syracuse tribunal completed its inquiry into an alleged miracle attributed to Mother Marianne: a girl's unexplained recovery from multiple-organ failure. That case will factor in the next step in Marianne's cause.

If it is validated by the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, it could mean beatification. Another verified miracle could earn Mother Marianne sainthood.

Sainthood could be many years down the line, though, if it ever comes.

But Hanley said the biggest hurdle had already been overcome.

"I think it's the hardest step," she said. "Once you have her heroic virtue established, you don't have any more inquiries or documentation to collect about her life and virtue."


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