He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor he shall save. Psalm 72:13
Barbara Cope, born in Germany in 1838, emigrated with her family to Utica, New York. Her father, a farmer, fell ill when Barbara was in grade school. Since he was unable to care for his large family, Barbara left 8th grade to work in a textile factory. By the time her father died in 1862, her siblings were able to support themselves, so Barbara eagerly decided to follow the Lord’s call she had been hearing for many years. She became a Franciscan Sister in Syracuse, New York, taking the name Sr. Marianne.
With great love and grace, Sr. Marianne’s leadership qualities grew. She became a teacher, a principal, and part of the governing team of her Religious Sisters. Soon she was elected Superior General. Insisting that medical care be provided to all regardless of race or creed, she helped establish two Catholic Hospitals in Central New York. Taking charge of the first public hospital in Syracuse, Sr. Marianne supplemented workers in the hospital by contracting with Geneva Medical College. Quickly she managed to move that College to Syracuse, establishing Syracuse University’s College of Medicine. Students worked with patients, not only helping with staffing but enhancing their own education with hands-on experience. In an unusual move for the time, she also ensured that patients could refuse treatment by medical students if they wished. She wanted everyone to be honored and respected.
An urgent call came from King Kalakaua of Hawaii in 1883, pleading for help with lepers on the Islands. 50 Religious Orders had turned down his request. Sr. Marianne said, “I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen ones, whose privilege it will be to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor Islanders…. I am not afraid of any disease; hence, it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers.” She with six other Sisters arrived on Oahu and ran a hospital serving those with leprosy (Hansen’s Disease). A year later, with energy that only God could supply, Sr. Marianne set up another hospital on Maui.
In 1887, the government asked Sr. Marianne to set up a home for women and girls on Molokai. She cheerfully agreed, establishing the home in 1888. She also cared for the ailing Fr. Damien (now St. Damien) of Molokai and took over his duties. He died in 1889. She continued his loving work on the island until she died in 1918.
St. Marianne Cope is our second Ornament of Grace.
Observing the Beautiful Ornaments
How did Sr. Marianne find the courage to care for those with leprosy?
How can you thank those who care for others at great risk to themselves?