Today is the feast day for Blessed Marianne Cope
(1838-1918), a Franciscan sister who worked with Father Damien on the island of Moloka’i ministering to the lepers there. Born in Germany, her family emigrated to upstate New York when she was young. At age twenty-four she joined the Franciscan Sisters of Philadelphia. Over the next twenty years, she worked in schools and hospitals. In 1883 at the request of the Hawaiian government, she brought a group of sisters to take charge of a leper hospital near Honolulu. For the next thirty-five years she established more hospitals and homes. A peer described her as “the gentlest, the cheeriest and the most dignified person you could imagine, and a disciplinarian, too… She revolutionized life on Molokai, brought cleanliness, pride and fun to the colony. People on Molokai laugh now—like other people in the world, laugh at the same things, the same dilemmas and jokes
.” In 2005 she was beatified
. Robert Louis Stevenson, who visited Moloka’i, wrote a poem about her
Reverend Sister Marianne
Matron of the Bishop Home, Kaulaupapa
To see the infinite pity of this place,
The mangled limb, the devastated face,
The innocent sufferers smiling at the rod,
A fool were tempted to deny his God.
He sees, and shrinks, but if he look again,
Lo, beauty spring from the breast of pain!
He marks the sisters on the painful shores,
And even a fool is silent and adores.
Kalawo, May 22, 1889