Minute Meditations

Providing Care with Courage

Marianne Cope listened only to God, accepting and caring for people others feared or found distasteful and putting her own health at risk. Hansen’s disease, in those days called leprosy, struck fear in the hearts of most people. It was believed—later disproved—that the infection that strikes the skin, nervous system, and more was highly contagious. As a result, in Hawaii and elsewhere, those suffering from Hansen’s disease and sometimes their family members were cast out from society. And based on the information available at the time, anyone working with those stricken put his or her health at severe risk. What she and the others  found when they arrived in Hawaii was challenging. Conditions were deplorable. But instead of turning around and leaving on the next boat, Mother Marianne and the others chose to stay. Mother Marianne became a tireless advocate for those she served. Mother Marianne and Fr. Damien, known as the apostle to the lepers, met after she had been in Hawaii only a few months. When he himself was diagnosed with Hansen’s two years later, she courageously nursed him and took on his work among men with the infection. Despite thirty-five years in ministry on the islands, Mother Marianne never contracted the disease. Her insistence on strict sanitary and hygiene procedures generally are credited for this. She died of natural causes in 1918. Her remains currently reside at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.

— from Radical Saints: 21 Women for the 21st Century, by Melanie Rigney



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