Marianne Cope

Mother Marianne Cope in her youth

Feast Day: January 23
Canonized: October 21, 2012
Beatified: May 14, 2005
Venerated: April 19, 2004

Do you remember the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37? Mother Marianne of Molokai brought Jesus’ story to life in her ministry to the lepers of Hawaii.

Marianne Cope was born Barbara Koob in Germany in 1838. When she was two years old, her family emigrated to the United States, to upstate New York, to find a better life. After eighth-grade graduation, she worked in a factory to earn money to help her family. Her dream of becoming a nun had to be delayed until her younger brothers and sisters could support themselves. She joined the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse when she was 24.

After taking her vows, Marianne taught in Catholic schools and then became a principal. Her Franciscan sisters recognized her gift for leadership and elected her to their board. The Franciscans established two hospitals in New York, and Sister Marianne became a nurse and the first director at one of the hospitals. She and her Sisters insisted that the hospital treat patients of every race, nationality, and religion. This policy was criticized by many people, but Marianne believed in equal treatment for all people.

Marianne became Superior of her order and was called “Mother.” One day she received a letter from the Hawaiian government begging for help in treating the island lepers. Dozens of other religious orders refused the request, but Marianne felt that it was a call from God. More than 35 Sisters volunteered, but only six were chosen to accompany Marianne to Hawaii in 1883.

Mother Marianne spent 30 years caring for the lepers of the Hawaiian Islands. She and her sisters built hospitals to treat the lepers and also established homes and schools for the families of those affected by the disease. Mother Marianne worked with St. Damien de Veuster, a Belgian priest known as the “Apostle to the Lepers” of Molokai, where he established a colony for them. She continued his work when he became ill with the disease and died.

Mother Marianne died in Molokai in 1918 and was declared “Blessed” in 2005. On Oct. 21, 2012, she was formally named a saint.

We honor her commitment to people who were outcasts in their own land. We can imitate St. Marianne’s example by reaching out to those who are ignored or treated unfairly. Like her, we can be Good Samaritans to everyone we meet.

Connecting to Blest Are We® Parish and School
Grade 2, chapter 15