Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sr Marianne Cope & Molokai

 Mother Marianne, far, right, led a group of six volunteers from the Sisters of St. Francis to Hawaii to combat the health care crisis there. Their help was so welcome the Hawaiian government awarded her a medal. Behind them stands Prime Minister of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

 In 1883 Mother Marianne Cope and five other sisters volunteered to travel to Hawaii to work with people afflicted with Hansen's disease. The disease, then known as leprosy, was so feared they were the only religious congregation to respond to a request for help. Mother Marianne wrote "I am not afraid of any disease." To this day none of the sisters has gotten sick.

 The government resumed its policy of banishment for Hansen's disease patients in 1887. The island of Molokai became the location for Hawaii's banished citizens. Mother Marianne lived the rest of her days working with the afflicted in the remote location, separated from the rest of society.

 There was a real orphan crisis when the Hawaiian government started its policy of banishment. Most institutions would not care for them nor would their families since they were so afraid of the disease. The children would roam the streets homeless. Mother Marianne Cope started several programs to house the children near their parents.

 While there was no cure for the residents of Molokai, the sisters tried to bring dignity to their lives. Before the sisters arrived, patients dressed in rags. The sisters gave the girls proper clothes and taught them embroidery, sewing and gardening. They also gave them music lessons.

 Hansen's disease patients often lived a long life, but their daily needs were often neglected when they were banished. The sisters' arrival on Molokai brought the girls lessons in traditional education subjects and religious training, including giving the girls a proper first communion ceremony.

 Prior to the sisters' arrival in Molokai, patients lived in ramshackle huts. Mother Marianne and the religious sisters were able to raise the money to build proper buildings for patients and give them beds instead of the straw mats they slept on.

 Mother Marianne was beatified at the Vatican in 2005 after it declared a 14-year-old girl miraculously recovered from nearly total organ failure. The Franciscan sisters heard about her case and started praying to Mother Marianne for her recovery. The girl, Kate Mahoney, is still healthy today and is attending this weekend's ceremony.

The Sisters of Saint Francis still minister to the sick and elderly in Hawaii. They run a hospice program, provide home health service and run adult day care programs. From left, Row 1: Sisters Ancilla Yim, Charlene Epil, Rose Fatima Leite, Frances Cabrini Morishige, Laurenza Fernandez, Agnelle Ching and William Marie Eleniki. From left, Row 2: Sisters Jovita Agustin, Norise Kaiser, Agatha Perreira and Pat Schofield. 

Mother Marianne Cope (in wheelchair) with other nuns and the women and girls of Bishop Home in Kalaupapa, Hawaii, shortly before her death in 1918.
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