Franciscan Spirit Blog

Five Women of Faith: St. Marianne Cope

Photo of St. Marianne Cope

St. Marianne Cope (1838–1918)

The baby, who would become Sister Marianne as a consecrated woman, was born in Germany to the Koob family in the 19th century. She came to the United States with her parents in 1839, just a year after her birth. The family settled in Utica, New York. They changed their name to Cope. When Marianne was still a young teenager, her father became an invalid. Marianne took a job in a factory to help with family finances. They all became U.S. citizens and, as the oldest child, our saint worked in a textile factory to help support her family.

Father Cope died in 1862 when Marianne was in her mid-20s. At this point, she became a novice in the Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York. With these Franciscans, Marianne would teach and eventually become the principal in various schools opening for German-speaking immigrants. She also helped found Catholic hospitals. An unusual feature of these institutions was that they provided care to all no matter what race or creed.

In 1883, Sister Marianne, now Superior General of her order, was asked if she could send some of the sisters to Hawaii to help care for lepers. The King of Hawaii had previously asked fifty other congregations for help without success! Sister Marianne responded that she was hungry for the work and had no fear of any disease; on the contrary, she was delighted to be able to help the lepers.

The bells of Our Lady of Peace Cathedral pealed to welcome the sisters as they entered the Hawaiian port. They began by tending lepers from all the islands. So bad was the treatment in some of these hospitals that Sister Marianne demanded improvement or that her Sisters would go back to the United States. The situation was rectified.

The work of the Sisters was so much appreciated that the king gave Mother Marianne the Cross of a Companion of the Royal Order of Kapiolani for her leadership in such works of mercy. As well, the Sisters opened a home for the homeless healthy children of lepers.

This was an innovation to have those healthy ones right on the grounds of the leper colony. Eventually these shelters were set up on Molokai where Mother Marianne cared for St. Damien, the famous Belgian missionary to the lepers. She died in 1918 in old age, not from leprosy. Mother Marianne was declared a saint in 2012. She is the first Franciscan woman to be canonized from North America.

“Let us make the very best use of the precious moments and do all in our power for his dear sake
and for his greater honor and glory.”
St. Marianne Cope

Treasury of Women Saints | Franciscan Media

1 thought on “Five Women of Faith: St. Marianne Cope”

  1. Lord Jesus Christ, may we always honor you, both in our work and in our rest, and in the way we treat my neighbor. Fill us with your love and keep us free from a critical and intolerant spirit that we may always seek to please you and to bring good to our neighbor as well. Amen.

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