Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Bus loads of religious pilgrims left Syracuse Monday, bound for flights to Rome for Sunday’s canonization of Mother Marianne Cope at the Vatican and more will leave Tuesday set for the same destination.
Saint Marianne founded Syracuse’s St. Joseph’s Hospital in the 1800s. She then courageously answered a call that took her to the Hawaiian Islands where she spent the last 35 years of her life caring for dying lepers.
Sister Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American woman born along the Mohawk River near Albany, will also be canonized in the same ceremony on Sunday.
From the very beginning, the Catholic Church has recognized certain men and women as saints. Some of the names are very familiar to us. Most are not. And very, very few have been Americans -- just 10, until now. But now, there will be 12. The two newest American saints are women with deep roots and lasting legacies in Central and Upstate New York. Mother Marianne Cope, a sister of Saint Francis, and Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American of the Mohawk nation.
Marianne, born Barbara Koob in Germany, grew up in Utica, and became became Sister Marianne Cope in the 1860s in Syracuse.
“To think that one of our own has risen to become a Saint in the universal church is one of great pride,” said Sister Pat Burkard of the Sisters of St. Francis.
Along the Mohawk in the 17th century, Kateri became a Catholic convert and was shunned by most of her own people.
“She's not someone from the past. Her spirit still lives with us. It is the understanding of the First Nations people, the Native Americans, that when someone dies, their spirit stays and continues to live with the people,” said Friar Mark Steed , director of the national shrine to Kateri at Fonda.
Mother Marianne founded hospitals in Syracuse and Utica. She spent two years teaching at St. Peter’s School in Oswego. The parish hall in the port city is the one building where Marianne worked and lived that still stands today.
She lived to the age of 80 and died among the lepers she cared for in Hawaii during the last 35 years of her life.
Kateri died at 24 and legend has it that she’s since bestowed favors and graces on those who prayed to her.
Two very different lives, lived by two very holy women.
Mother Marianne’s remains are enshrined in Syracuse at the S isters of Saint Francis Motherhouse. Just down the hall from this chapel is a museum dedicated to her life, which still holds her journals, the desk where she wrote them and her personal prayer book.
Kateri's National Shrine is the very land of her conversion and her young life along the Mohawk in Fonda.
Saints are models of heroic virtue.
“I think it shows that God calls people in every age to live lives of special holiness,” said Syracuse Catholic Bishop Robert Cunningham. “Our young people, you know, they need challenges today. They need heroes, and they need to be challenged, they need to show that they can do great things in their lives and for God.”
“Their example propels us, they teach us not only by what they say, but by what they do. By their holy lives, they preach a sermon. As St. Francis would say, ‘just by being who they are,’” Bishop Cunningham continued.
And beyond who they are, is the power they have when people pray to them and through them – to God, for help, sometimes life-saving help.
Between them, Kateri and Marianne are credited with three medical miracles. Prayers to Kateri cured Jake Finkbonner of Washington State of a flesh-eating virus.
Prayers to mother Marianne inexplicably healed Bishop Ludden High Schooler Kate Mahoney and retired school custodian Sharon Smith of Chittenango.
Their doctors are believers too.
“I think spirituality has a huge role in medicine and has a huge role in daily life,” said Dr. Russ Acevedo, Mahoney's critical care doctor during her recovery in 1993.
“We just work hard, do our best all the time and if we get a little help from above, with a miracle once in a while, that's okay,” laughed Dr. Tom Certo, who was Sharon Smith's surgeon in 2005.
“I learned a long time ago practicing medicine, that we can't explain all these things and it makes you think that there is some power, much exceeding our powers,” Dr. Richard Hehir said. Hehir served on the Diocesan tribunal that investigated Kate Mahoney's miracle and also reviewed the case of Sharon Smith.
On Tuesday, we’ll take a closer look at one of those medical miracles. All week on NewsChannel 9 at 5:30 p.m. we’ll preview Sunday’s Canonization of these two women with histories and legacies in Central and Upstate New York.
Our very own Dan Cummings will be at the Vatican later this week, to cover these “Saints Among Us” and the hundreds of faithful who are traveling to Rome for Sunday’s canonization. Look for his reports from the Vatican beginning Thursday on NewsChannel 9.