Footsteps of St. Marianne Cope
September 7th 2012 · 0 Comments
Though St. Marianne Cope crossed the Pacific Ocean to attend to the needs of the sick and poor, in what is now known as Hawaii, her healing mission began decades earlier. Most locals know that she was one of the founders of St. Elizabeth Hospital and the founder of St. Joseph Hospital in Syracuse. But few know that she began her career in the religious order as a teacher and administrator of Central New York schools.
Thirty-three local pilgrims, mostly from St. Joseph’s St. Patrick’s Church, decided to trace the steps of Saint Marianne on August 22. This was in preparation for the cascade of local events soon to come, as the time draws near for her canonization October 21 in Rome, Italy.
The first stop on the bus tour was St. Peter’s Church and school in Oswego where the group was greeted warmly by Fr. George Wurz. Fr. Richard Dellos, pastor of St. Joseph’s St. Patrick’s explained, “She taught there and I think she was the Principal. The Convent was upstairs and the school was downstairs. Of course it’s all different now. There are offices upstairs where the nuns lived so you couldn’t really tell. Maybe they’ll put it back the way it was one day.”
St. Marianne joined the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse in 1862 at the age of 24. Born in Heppenheim, Germany her family immigrated to the U.S. and Utica, when she was barely 2 years old. She and her family worked in the cotton mills and were parishioners of St. Joseph’s Church. Her father became gravely ill and though she had decided to join the convent, she stayed at home tending to her father until his passing. It was then that she left to assume her studies to take her vows to become a nun in the Order of Saint Francis.
The leadership team of the order quickly realized that Sr. Marianne was a gifted addition to their ranks and her rise to authority was swift. Within two years she was on the Community Leadership team and was quickly installed in positions of authority. By the time she left for the Sandwich Islands in 1883, she had been the head of the Sisters of St. Francis for two years. It was on the island of Maui that she founded her third hospital. She was head of the Franciscan Mission in Hawaii from 1883 until her death in 1918.
The pilgrim tour group celebrated the Mass with Frs. Dellos, Wurz and Fr. Andrews Addai from Ghana, followed by a healing service and lunch. Ellen Miekam Benton, Project Coordinator for St. Marianne Cope Celebration said, “They rolled out the red carpet for us.”
The group then traveled from there to Syracuse where they visited the Motherhouse where St. Marianne lived. They were greeted in the Chapel where the Saint’s remains are kept. Sister M. Jacqueline Spiridilozzi, OSF delivered a talk about how God prepares us for what is coming next in our lives.
For instance, St. Marianne’s work in hospitals gave her skills in nursing, pharmacology, medicine, and an awareness of the importance of hygiene and sanitation before it was commonly known. None of her sisters ever contracted leprosy. Her time spent in the mills made her a skillful seamstress. She was then able to make beautiful clothes for the castaway Lepers she tended to in Hawaii, bringing beauty and joy into their otherwise pitiful lives.
Miekam Benton says of the September 15th St. Joseph’s St. Patrick’s Mass celebrating St. Marianne’s canonization, “There will be Deacons from throughout the Eastern region. Sisters of St. Francis from the Motherhouse and St. Joseph’s Nursing Home will all attend. Of course Fr. Dellos is the main celebrant but we also have 7 additional Priests confirmed as concelebrating and many more will be on the altar with them.”
This Mass will be followed by a procession through the streets to the site of the Cope homestead on Schuyler Street. Plans are in the making for the development of a permanent shrine at this location in honor of Utica’s first and only Saint. The Banda Rosa and other nationally known artists are slated to provide music. Food and other festivities are planned at Zeina’s Café and Roger’s Café on Varick Street after the procession.
On October 14 a contingent of Sisters of St. Francis from Hawaii, en route to the canonization in Rome, will stop here in Utica. They will be part of three busloads of people, including many with Hanson’s Disease, to visit the home parish of St. Marianne on their way to the canonization. As Miekam Benton explains, “They want to come to the place where the seed of her spirituality was planted.”
Theirs will be a day trip in Utica. They will tour St. Joseph’s parish, visit the park site on Schuyler Street, have lunch at the Mother Marianne Soup Kitchen and visit St. Elizabeth Hospital. The Oneida County Historical Society may have their St. Marianne exhibit open for view as well. There will be national media here for this event. So far we have ABC, CBS, Fox News, and of course the Utica Phoenix.
A contingent from Utica, headed by Fr. Dellos, will also journey to Rome for the Saint’s canonization. Fr. Dellos says of this event, “This is an awesome thing. How often does something like this happen? Not even once in a lifetime. This is a one in a million event. How often is a Saint declared in your home parish? How many American Saints are there, and one who comes from Utica? I am totally humbled and blessed by this entire experience.”