Pope approves Blessed Mother Marianne Cope for sainthood

Father Ambrose Sanar, in St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa where he serves as pastor, said the people of Kalaupapa are excited about Blessed Mother Marianne's upcoming canonization. Photo by Sarah Minahan

On Dec. 19, Pope Benedict XVI made it official: Molokai will receive its second saint.

The Pope proclaimed Blessed Mother Marianne Cope a saint just two weeks after cardinals and bishops on the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes for Saints had announced a second miracle attributed to Cope’s intercession.

The second miracle took place in 2005 when Sister Michaeleen Cabral, of Syracuse, met Sharon Smith, who was suffering from pancreatis following a kidney transplant. Sister Cabral encouraged Smith to pray to Mother Marianne, the former Syracuse Franciscan leader who spent 35 years at the Kalaupapa settlement.

Blessed Mother Marianne Cope

Sister Cabral pinned to Smith’s hospital gown a small plastic bag containing dirt from Mother Marianne’s grave in Kalaupapa. The sister encouraged others to pray to Mother Marianne for Smith’s recovery. Although Mother Marianne died and was buried in Kalaupapa in 1918, the nuns had kept a bag of Kalaupapa soil with Marianne’s bone fragments when her body was exhumed in 2005 and her remains were taken to Syracuse.

Dr. Tom Certo, who operated on Smith, said he didn’t think she was going to make it. But only a few months after the operation, new X-rays showed that, “it looked like nothing had ever happened,” said Certo. Smith is now 65 and her doctors say she is doing fine.

Artwork of Blessed Mother Marianne outside of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa.

A person is not eligible for sainthood until two miracles have been approved by the church. The church says Mother Marianne’s first miracle involved the healing in 1993 of 14-year-old Kate Mahoney, who was near death in Crouse Hospital. It was this first confirmed miracle that gave her the title of Blessed Mother Marianne. Franciscans say other miracles were investigated, but the healings of Mahoney and Smith were most likely to be accepted by the Vatican. Mother Marianne is also credited with answering many other prayers.

While only 10 patients continue to live in the isolated Hansen’s disease settlement, Father Ambrose Sanar of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa believes the people are excited about this second saint from Molokai. Mother Marianne led the Kalaupapa settlement after Father Damien de Veuster died in 1889. He became Saint Damien of Molokai in 2009.

Plaque for Blessed Mother Marrianne at her gravesite in Kalaupapa.

“Two saints will have come from here,” said Father Ambrose. “The people here are very excited,” he added. “They will soon have Saint Mother Marianne.” Father Ambrose said there is also excitement among the workers at the Kalaupapa National Historical Park as well as the church workers.

“This means a lot to Hawaii, but also to America as well,” said Father Ambrose, referring to Mother Marianne’s roots in Syracuse, N.Y. Saint Damien came to Hawaii from Belgium.

In discussing Saint Damien and Mother Marianne, Father Ambrose said, “They have many the same qualities but they were also individuals.” As a Franciscan nun, Mother Marianne is quite close to the other sisters who serve in Kalaupapa, he added.

Her canonization will take place this year, presumably in May or October when the Vatican typically holds the ceremonies. Father Ambrose said he expects many of the same Kalaupapa patients who attend Damien’s canonization will also go to Rome for Cope’s canonization.


One Response

  1. […] Pope Benedict XVI made it official on Dec. 19 that Blessed Mother Marianne Cope would become a saint, the Molokai Catholic Community has been […]

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