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Lives of the Saints:

How They Changed the World

Saint Marianne Cope (1838–1918)

Saint Marianne Cope (1838–1918)

Patron saint of lepers, outcasts, sufferers from HIV and AIDS, and Hawaii

Feast day: January 23




Saint Marianne Cope was born in Germany and was given the name of her mother, Barbara. The family emigrated to the United States when she was a young child and settled in Utica, New York. When her father became too ill to work, Barbara went to work in a factory to provide for her family. When her father passed away and her siblings became old enough to look after the family, Barbara entered into religious life, joining the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York. She was given the name Marianne. She taught at Assumption Parish School, which was attended by a large number of German-speaking immigrant children. Sister Marianne also acted as superior of Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse on three different occasions. She was appointed superior general of her congregation in 1883 and was then given the title “Mother.” Soon after her appointment, she received a plea from the Hawaiian government, looking for people to help those on the islands suffering from leprosy. Mother Marianne responded to the desperate plea and traveled to Hawaii with six of her sisters to manage the Kakaako Branch Hospital near Honolulu. The sisters also established Malulani Hospital and a school for girls on the island of Maui.  Mother Marianne and her companions also served on Molokai, where they founded a home for vulnerable women and took on leadership of the home that Saint Damien de Veuster had opened for men. In fact, Mother Marianne cared for Saint Damien in the months before he died. Mother Marianne brought change and joy to the suffering inhabitants of Molokai and taught them about the importance of cleanliness in the treatment of leprosy. Even though she was constantly exposed to the disease, Mother Marianne never contracted leprosy herself. In 2014, Saint Marianne’s remains were moved from Syracuse, New York to the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Oahu, Hawaii. Saint Marianne had worshipped on occasion at this cathedral, and it was in this cathedral that Saint Damien de Veuster had been ordained. Saint Marianne’s community, the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis (since 2004, part of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities) still serve in various ministries in the Hawaiian Islands. (Image in public domain.)