Hawaii (WSYR-TV) - This Sunday at the Vatican, two women with roots in Central and Upstate New York will be Canonized.
One of these “Saints among Us” is Mother Marianne Cope, a Syracuse Sister of St. Francis who founded St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Mother Marianne then went on to spend the last 35 years of her life in Hawaii where she cared for dying lepers.
Today, Hawaii is known as a peaceful paradise. In the 1800s, it was hell on earth for many thanks to the mystery and misery of Hansen’s Disease, or leprosy.
“They did not know where it came from. They did not know how it spread. They did not have any cure for it. They only knew what happened to a person physically, on the outside, and that eventually they would die,” Sister Grace Anne Dillenschneider said.
The only way to contain it was to remove lepers from their homes – isolate them from the healthy. It was the law and it ripped families apart.
“As a mother or father, you can imagine what it must've been like to have your child taken from the classroom, brought to this hospital, and sent to this place to die, to die. It was a permanent sentence. There was no return,” said Sister Grace Anne.
Mother Mariannne Cope and the Syracuse Sisters of St. Francis went into the heart of misery of the leper’s community.
The disease is part of their order’s history. Their patron, St. Francis of Assisi had famously touched a leper and was transformed by the experience. Jesus Christ himself had cured 10 lepers. But in Hawaii, there was no cure, just the curse.
The sisters provided a courageous, caring presence to help the afflicted. First, at Honolulu Hospital where suspected lepers were quarantined, and then at their final place of exile.
The lepers were banished by the boatload to the island of Molokai, taken to a settlement on the island on the peninsula of Kalaupapa, and cut off from the rest of island by sea cliffs – 2,000 feet high.
There, the famous Father Damien, now a saint himself, had already been for 10 years, caring for the lepers. He died of the disease in 1889 and Mother Marianne prepared his coffin.
Astonishingly, neither Mother Marianne, nor any of the Franciscan sisters ever contracted leprosy – then or ever since.
It was a promise, a prophecy, made by Marianne herself.
NewsChannel 9’s Dan Cummings has arrived in Rome and we will be covering the Canonization event this weekend. NewsChannel 9 viewers will be hearing from him every day through the event.
Tune in tomorrow night for the “Saints among Us” special starting at 9 p.m.