Mother Marianne Cope's roots in the Mohawk Valley began in Utica, where her family settled in 1840 after emigrating from Germany the previous year, when she was a year old. A factory worker until she joined the Franciscan sisters in Syracuse in the early 1860s, the young nun worked as a nurse and hospital administrator, helping to found two hospitals — St. Joseph's in Syracuse and St. Elizabeth's in Utica — that are still in operation today. Under her direction, no one was denied medical care, according to Sister Patricia Burkard, general minister of the Syracuse-based Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.
"Her policy is very much like the Patients' Bill of Rights today," Sister Patricia said.
In the 1880s, Mother Marianne answered a plea from Hawaii for help providing care for leprosy patients at a settlement on Molokai island run by Father Damien, who gained sainthood in 2009. She died of natural causes at the settlement in 1918 and was buried there. In 2005, her remains were brought to Syracuse, where they're in a reliquary located in the chapel at the St. Anthony Convent, which is also home to a Mother Marianne museum.
Leaders of the Sisters of St. Francis say they expect an increase in visitors at the chapel and museum when Mother Marianne is canonized.
In 2004, Pope John Paul II declared Mother Marianne "venerable," the first step toward canonization after the Vatican recognized her intercession for the unexplained cure of a New York girl dying of multiple organ failure. The Vatican recommended her canonization in December after a second recovery was attributed to her intercession.
Kateri Tekakwitha was beatified in 1980 when John Paul II waived the first miracle typically required. Prayers to her are credited for the second Tekakwitha miracle: the recovery of 6-year-old Washington state boy who had a flesh-eating disease.
"We're considered quote, 'a young country,' compared to Italy, France and Germany," Sister Patricia said. "That we're seeing more saints named from the United States really means that the faith in our country is maturing to the point that we have people who have lived among us who have given us many examples of a good life."
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