Sometimes it takes a long, long time for deserved recognition to arrive. Mother Marianne, a Sister of St. Francis in Syracuse, will be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on Sunday. Her remarkable work: in 1883 Mother Marianne decided to live among the lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai . She stayed for more than 30 years.
Those with the disease were cast out from their communities and forced to live in isolation. However, it was Catholic sisters and priests who brought compassion to the lepers who lived on the towering cliffs of Molokai.
“I am not afraid of any disease,” Mother Marianne wrote.
The isolation laws were lifted in 1969. Today, 17 people who lived in the “colony” have survived. Nine are traveling to Rome, with more than 100 other Hawaiians, and stopped in New York where Mother Marianne lived before her Hawaiian ministry.
Mother Marianne’s life reminds us that compassionate choices can overpower fear transforming the lives of those who suffer injustice.
(S-R archives photo: Sister Jane Frances kisses the coffin of Mother Marianne Cope, after a Mass to honor Cope at the Franciscan Motherhouse Chapel in Syracuse, N.Y. 2005. Mother Marianne was honored as part of the beatification process, a prerequisite to sainthood.)