St. Marianne Cope was born in western Germany in 1838. She entered religious life in Syracuse, N.Y. in 1862. She served as a teacher and principal in several schools in the state and established two of the first hospitals in the central New York area: St. Elizabeth Hospital in Utica and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse.
In 1883, Mother Marianne’s community was the only one of fifty to respond positively to an emissary from Hawaii who requested Catholic sisters to provide health care on the Hawaiian Islands, especially to those with leprosy.
Over the next five years, St. Marianne set up a system of long-term education and care for her patients.
She ministered to patients at Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai. Her time of service overlapped with the last years of St. Damien of Molokai, a priest who served victims of Hansen’s disease and himself died of leprosy.
St. Marianne promised her sisters that none of them would ever contract the disease. To this day, no sister has. Her care earned her the affectionate title “beloved mother of the outcasts.”
She died in 1918 and was beatified on May 14, 2005 and canonized on October 21, 2012, both by Pope Benedict XVI.
“At a time when little could be done for those suffering from this terrible disease, Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm,” Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily during the Mass for her canonization. “She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved Saint Francis.”