|ANGELICA A. MORRISON / Observer- Photo|
The Rev. John E. Mikalajunas packs his bags, Monday Oct. 15, 2012, at the Holy Trinity Church Rectory in preparation for a trip to Rome for the canonization of Blessed Marianne Cope, which is taking place Oct. 21. This is Mikalajunas' 14th time visiting Rome. "I'm excited every time," he said. "It's always adventurous, and the fact that she's from our area makes it even more exciting."
“I trust in the Lord and I made that promise,” said Frank, 85, of Utica.
Frank’s prayers were answered. She is making the same pilgrimage to the Vatican this week with more than 200 parishioners, priests and others associated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse.
The group, led by Bishop Robert Cunningham, left today and will stay in Italy for a week to attend Sunday’s canonizations of Blessed Marianne and six others.
Blessed Marianne isn’t the only one representing the Mohawk Valley. Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha lived in what is today Fonda. She will be canonized as the first Native American saint. Frank said she remembers learning about Marianne and Kateri in school. When she was young, she prayed to the two women. “The double excitement I have …” said Frank, pausing to choose the right words to express her joy. “The pleasure I have to live in a time when the two saints that I was really hoping some day would be canonized both together; it’s the greatest blessing.” The Rev. Richard Dellos of St. Joseph & St. Patrick Church in Utica said he is especially excited about the upcoming canonization. After all, Marianne was a parishioner of the church in the 19th century. She was born Barbara Koob in Germany but immigrated to Utica when she was 2. She also was student at the parish school. “It is a special time,” Dellos said. “She only lived around the block, she went to school here. We feel very near and dear to her.”
And Kateri was just a stone’s throw away in Fonda, though a little less than 200 years before Marianne’s time. The site where she lived has become the home of the National Shrine of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. It’s said she was baptized with the same water that fills a well on the grounds.
Dellos and other priests from the Syracuse diocese will help celebrate Mass Sunday at the Vatican. The Rev. John Mikalajunas, of the Holy Trinity Church in Utica, expects thousands of people to flood the Vatican for the canonization. He estimated that about 25 people from the Utica area would be making the trip.
Rose Marie Roberts, a St. Joseph & St. Patrick parishioner from Whitesboro, is getting ready for her first trip across the pond for the canonization. But this is no regular vacation for her. The coordinator for the church’s Perpetual Adoration chapel said she has a special connection to Marianne. Several years ago, her mother was diagnosed with myelodysplasia, a bone marrow disorder that slows the production of red blood cells. She required blood transfusions once every three months. Then every two months. Then once a month. It got to the point where Roberts’ mother needed the transfusions two to three times a week.
Roberts heard Marianne’s remains were to be on display at her church. She brought her mother to pray, maybe for the last time. “I was praying for a peaceful death for my mother,’ said Roberts, 54. “And honestly, she was probably praying for the same thing.” After the Mass, the transfusions stopped. It was the unexplained miracle that brought about Roberts’ adoration of Marianne, she said. She said she hopes Sunday’s canonization will have a far-reaching effect on the Mohawk Valley. The event might make God and the church more tangible to youth of the area. “Getting a saint in our midst like that is a wonderful benefit we need to take advantage of,” Roberts said. “She was a common person in our community, and (youths) can relate to that.”
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