Marianne Cope

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Marianne Cope

Marianne Cope shortly before her departure for Hawaii (1883)
BornBarbara Koob
(1838-01-23)January 23, 1838
Heppenheim, Grand Duchy of Hesse
DiedAugust 9, 1918(1918-08-09) (aged 80)
Kalaupapa, Hawaiʻi
Resting placeCathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu, Hawaii
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church, Episcopal Church
BeatifiedMay 14, 2005, Saint Peter's Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI
CanonizedOctober 21, 2012, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI
Major shrineSaint Marianne Cope Shrine & Museum
601 N. Townsend St.
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
FeastJanuary 23 (Catholic Church)
April 15 (Episcopal Church (United States))
PatronageLepers, outcasts, those with HIV/AIDS, Hawaiʻi.

Marianne Cope, TOSF, also known as Saint Marianne of Molokaʻi (January 23, 1838 – August 9, 1918), was a German-born American religious sister who was a member of the Sisters of St Francis of Syracuse, New York, and founding leader of its St. Joseph's Hospital in the city, among the first of 50 general hospitals in the country.[1] Known also for her charitable works, in 1883 she relocated with six other sisters to Hawaiʻi to care for persons suffering leprosy on the island of Molokaʻi and aid in developing the medical infrastructure in Hawaiʻi. Despite direct contact with the patients over many years, Cope did not contract the disease.

In 2005, Marianne was beatified by decision of Pope Benedict XVI.[2] She was canonized (declared a saint) by the same pope on October 21, 2012, along with Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th-century Native American.[3] Cope is the 11th Catholic active in what is now the United States to be canonized by the Catholic Church.[3]


Birth and vocation[edit]

Cope was born as Barbara Koob, later anglicizing her last name to "Cope". She was born on January 23, 1838, in Heppenheim in the Grand Duchy of Hesse to Peter Koob (1787–1862) and his wife Barbara Witzenbacher (1803–1872). The following year her family emigrated to the United States, settling in the industrial city of Utica, New York. They became members of the Parish of St Joseph, where Barbara attended parish school. By the time she was in eighth grade, her father had developed a disability. As the oldest child, Barbara left school to work in a textile factory to support her family.[4] Barbara, her father, and her siblings became naturalized as an American citizens in the 1850s.[5]

Historic Old St. John's Church, Utica New York

Barbara received her First Holy Communion and her Confirmation at historic Old St. Johns Church in Utica, New York.[6]

By the time their father, Peter Cope, died in 1862, the younger children in the family were of age to support themselves, so Barbara pursued her long-felt religious calling. She entered the novitiate of the Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York. After a year of formation, Cope received the religious habit of the Franciscan Sisters and the new name Marianne. She became first a teacher and then a principal in newly established schools for the region's German-speaking immigrants. Following the revolutions of 1848, more German Catholic immigrants entered the United States. [7]

By 1870, Marianne Cope had become a member of the governing council of her religious congregation. She helped found the first two Catholic hospitals in Central New York, with charters stipulating that medical care was to be provided to all, regardless of race or creed. She was appointed by the Superior General to govern St. Joseph's Hospital, the first public hospital in Syracuse, serving from 1870 to 1877.[8]

As a hospital administrator, Marianne became involved with the move of Geneva Medical College of Hobart College from Geneva, New York, to Syracuse, where it became the College of Medicine at Syracuse University. She contracted with the college to accept their students for treating patients in her hospital to further their medical education. Her stipulation in the contract—again unique for the period—was the right of the patients to refuse care by the students. These experiences helped prepare her for the special ministry she next pursued.[9]

Call to Hawaii[edit]

In 1883, Mother Marianne Cope, by then Superior General of the congregation, received a plea for help from King Kalākaua of Hawaii to care for leprosy sufferers. More than 50 religious congregations had already declined his request for Sisters to do this because leprosy was considered to be highly contagious. She responded enthusiastically to the letter:

I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen Ones, whose privilege it will be, to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor Islanders... I am not afraid of any disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned 'lepers.'[10]

The Sisters of St. Francis, at the Kakaʻako Branch Hospital.
Walter Murray Gibson with the Sisters of St. Francis and daughters of Hansen's disease patients, at the Kakaʻako Branch Hospital.

Cope departed from Syracuse with six other Sisters to travel to Honolulu to answer this call, arriving on November 8, 1883. They traveled on the SS Mariposa. With Mother Marianne as a supervisor, the Sisters' task was to manage Kakaʻako Branch Hospital on Oʻahu, which served as a receiving station for Hansen's disease patients gathered from all over the islands. The more severe cases were processed and shipped to the island of Molokaʻi for confinement in the settlement at Kalawao, and then later at Kalaupapa.

The following year, at the government's request, Cope set up Malulani Hospital, the first general hospital on the island of Maui. Soon, she was called back to the hospital in Oahu. She had to deal with a government-appointed administrator's maltreatment of the leprosy patients at the Branch Hospital at Kakaako, an area adjoining Honolulu. She told the government that either the administrator had to be dismissed or the Sisters would return to Syracuse. She was given charge of the overcrowded hospital. Her return to Syracuse to re-assume governance of the congregation was delayed, as both the government and church authorities thought she was essential to the mission's success.

Two years later, the king awarded Mother Marianne with the Cross of a Companion of the Royal Order of Kapiolani for her care of his people.[11] The work continued to increase. In November 1885, she opened the Kapiolani Home with the government's support to provide shelter to homeless female children of leprosy patients. The home was located on a leprosy hospital's grounds because only the Sisters were willing to care for children so closely associated with people suffering from leprosy.

In 1887, a new government came into office. It ended the forced exile of leprosy patients to Molokai and closed the specialty hospital in Oahu. A year later, the authorities pleaded with the Sisters to establish a new home for women and girls on the Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai. Marianne accepted the call, knowing that it might mean she would never return to New York. "We will cheerfully accept the work…" was her response.[9]


Mother Marianne Cope and Sister Leopoldina Burns beside the funeral bier of Father Damien
Mother Marianne Cope (in the wheelchair) only a few days before she died.
Scales used by Mother Marianne Cope and the Sisters to measure medicine, Kalaupapa, Hawaii, the late 1880s

In November 1888, Marianne moved to Kalaupapa. She cared for the dying Father Damien, SS.CC., who was already known internationally for his work in the leper colony and began to take over his burdens. She had met him shortly after her arrival in Hawaii.

When Father Damien died on April 15, 1889, the government officially gave Mother Marianne charge of care of the boys of Kalaupapa along with her current role in caring for the colony's female residents. A prominent local businessman, Henry Perrine Baldwin, donated money for the new home. Mother Marianne and two assistants, Sister Leopoldina Burns and Sister Vincentia McCormick, opened and ran a new girls' school, which she named in Baldwin's honor. A community of Religious Brothers was sought to come and care for the boys. After the arrival of four Brothers of the Sacred Heart in 1895,[12] Mother Marianne withdrew the Sisters to the Bishop Home for leprous women and girls. Joseph Dutton was given charge of Baldwin House by the government.[citation needed]


Marianne Cope died of natural causes on August 9, 1918. She was buried on the grounds of the Bishop Home. In 2005, her remains were brought to Syracuse for reinterment at her motherhouse.[13] In 2014, her remains were returned to Honolulu and are enshrined at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace.[14][15]

Legacy and honors[edit]

  • 1927 — Saint Francis Hospital was founded in Honolulu in her memory as a community hospital and trained nurses to work with Hansen's disease patients.
  • 1957 — St. Francis opened the Child Development Center at the Honolulu Community Church.
  • 1962 — St. Francis Home Care Services was established, the first in Hawaii to specialize in home health care for Hawaiian people.
  • 2005, Induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[16]
  • 2006 — The Sisters of St. Francis chose to focus on long-term care, transferring St. Francis Hospital's two facilities to a private board. The facilities are now known as the Hawaii Medical Center East in Liliha, and Hawaii Medical Center West in Ewa.[17] Both hospitals were closed at the end of 2011.[18] In August 2012, The Queen's Health Systems agreed to acquire the former Hawaii Medical Center West and reopen the hospital in the fall of 2013.[19]
  • The Saint Francis School was founded in Cope's honor in 1924, operating as a girls-only school for grades 6–9.[20]

The community which Cope founded on Molokai continues to minister to the few patients who have Hansen Disease. The Franciscan Sisters work at several schools and minister to parishioners throughout the Hawaiian Islands.


In 1993, Katherine Dehlia Mahoney was allegedly healed from multiple-organ failure after praying to Marianne Cope for intercession. On October 24, 2003, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared Marianne Cope to have been "heroically virtuous." On April 19, 2004, Pope John Paul II issued a decree declaring her Venerable. On December 20, 2004, after receiving the unanimous affirmation of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, Pope John Paul II ordered a decree to be issued authenticating this recovery as a miracle to be attributed to the intercession of Cope. On May 14, 2005, Marianne Cope was beatified in Vatican City by decision of Pope Benedict XVI.[21][22] Over 100 followers from Hawaiʻi attended the beatification Mass, along with 300 members of Cope's religious congregation in Syracuse. At the Mass, presided over by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, the Hawaiian song "Makalapua" (a favorite of Cope) was sung.[23] Her feast day was established as January 23 and is celebrated by her own religious congregation, the Diocese of Honolulu, and the Diocese of Syracuse.

After the announcement by the Holy See of her impending beatification, during January 2005, Mother Marianne's remains were moved to the motherhouse of the congregation in Syracuse. A temporary shrine was established to honor her and by 2009, the erection of a marble sarcophagus in the motherhouse chapel was complete. Her remains were interred in the new shrine on her feast day of January 23.[24]

Mother Marianne Cope statue dedicated January 23, 2010, in Honolulu

In 2007, a statue of her was erected at St Joseph's Church in her native Utica, whose parish school she had attended as a child.[25]


On December 6, 2011, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints found that a second miracle could also be attributed to the intercession of Cope. This finding was presented to Pope Benedict XVI for his approval by Cardinal Angelo Amato.[26] On December 19, 2011, Pope Benedict signed and approved the promulgation of the decree for Marianne Cope's canonization, which took place on October 21, 2012;[27] a relic was carried to Honolulu from her mother church. Dr. Waldery Hilgeman was the Postulator of the Cause of Canonization.[28]

After Father Damien, Mother Marianne Cope is the second person to be canonized who had served in the Hawaiian Islands. She was both the first Beatification and the last Canonization under Pope Benedict XVI. In 2014, the Church announced that Saint Marianne's remains would be re-interred at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, a more convenient location for the faithful than the Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokaʻi, where access is primarily by plane or mule train. St. Marianne sometimes attended Mass at the cathedral, and it was where Father Damien was ordained. In New York, the Franciscan Convent which held her remains, moved to a new location because its former buildings needed extensive repairs.[29]

Ecumenical veneration[edit]

Cope is honored jointly with Saint Damien of Moloka'i on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA). Their shared feast day is celebrated on April 15.[30]

In arts and media[edit]

Paul Cox directed the film Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999). Marianne Cope was portrayed by South African actress Alice Krige. Father Damien was portrayed by David Wenham.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Today in History: St. Joseph's Hospital Opens on Prospect Hill". Onondaga Historical Association. May 7, 2017. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  2. ^ Pope Benedict XVI (May 14, 2005). "Apostolic Letter by which he raised to the glory of the altars the Servants of God: Ascensión Nicol Goñi and Marianne Cope". The Holy See. Retrieved March 19, 2010. (Latin)
  3. ^ a b Christensen, Jen (October 21, 2012). "Mother Marianne becomes an American saint". CNN. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
  4. ^ Krista J. Karch (May 11, 2005). "The road to sainthood: Mother Marianne worked years in Utica mills before joining convent". The Utica Observer-Dispatch. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  5. ^ "Diocese of Honolulu". Diocese of Honolulu. Retrieved January 22, 2023.
  6. ^ "Saint Marianne Cope". Historic Old Saint John's Church. Utica, New York. Archived from the original on August 25, 2019. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  7. ^ Michael V. Gannon, "Before and after Modernism: the Intellectual Isolation of the American Priest," in The Catholic Priest in the United States: Historical Investigations, ed. John Tracy Ellis (Collegeville: St. John University Press, 1971), 300. In the period 1815-1865, 606,791 German Catholics entered the US; and between 1865-1900, another 680,000 did.
  8. ^ "Saint Marianne Cope Syracuse, New York (NY), St. Joseph's Health". Retrieved January 22, 2023.
  9. ^ a b "Biography of St Marianne Cope". Sisters of St Francis of the Neumann Communities. Archived from the original on November 13, 2009. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
  10. ^ "Biography - Marianne Cope (1838-1918)". Official Vatican website. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  11. ^ Mary Laurence Hanley; O. A. Bushnell (January 1992). Pilgrimage and Exile: Mother Marianne of Molokai. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 225–226. ISBN 978-0-8248-1387-1.
  12. ^ website of the Damien Memorial School,; accessed April 19, 2015.
  13. ^ "Mother Marianne Cope and the Sisters of St Francis". Kalaupapa National Historic Park website. National Park Service. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  14. ^ "Homecoming for Saint Marianne – Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities". August 7, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  15. ^ "St. Marianne Cope's remains returning to Hawaii". Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  16. ^ National Women's Hall of Fame, Mother Marianne Cope
  17. ^ "Historical Timeline: A Legacy of Firsts in the Islands". St Francis Healthcare System website. St Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii. Archived from the original on May 2, 2010. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  18. ^ "Last five patients leave Hawaii Medical Center West". web site. Pacific Business News. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  19. ^ "Queen's Medical Center and St. Francis reach agreement on Hawaii Medical Center West acquisition". Hawaii Medical Center West infosite. Pacific Business News. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  20. ^ "About Us: Welcome to Saint Francis School". School website. Saint Francis School. Archived from the original on March 24, 2010. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  21. ^ "History of Cause of Blessed Marianne Cope at the Congregation for Causes of Saints in Vatican City, Italy". Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. Archived from the original on July 9, 2018. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  22. ^ "THE BEATIFICATION OF MOTHER MARIANNE COPE". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  23. ^ Mary Adamski (May 5, 2005). "'Blessed' Mother Cope: The Kalaupapa nun reaches the second step to sainthood". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  24. ^ Shrine of Blessed Marianne Cope Archived November 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine; accessed April 19, 2015.
  25. ^ Jessica Doyle (October 3, 2007). "Shrine to Mother Marianne honors life of serving poor". The Utica Observer-Dispatch. Archived from the original on September 15, 2012. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
  26. ^ "Path to Sainthood Cleared for Blessed Marianne Cope" (news release) Archived April 26, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, The Sisters of St Francis of the Neumann Communities, December 6, 2011.
  27. ^ CAPPELLA PAPALE FOR THE CANONIZATION OF THE BLESSEDS: James Berthieu, Pedro Calungsod, John Baptist Piamarta, Maria of mt Carmel Sallés y Barangueras, Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha, Anna Schäffer
  28. ^ Downes, Patrick (October 26, 2012). "A Second Saint for Molakai" (PDF). Hawaii Catholic Herald. Honolulu, HI: Roman Catholic Bishop of Honolulu. p. 12. ISSN 1045-3636. OCLC 10684616.
  29. ^ "Saint's remains return to Hawaii permanently", CBS News Interactive, 31 July 2014
  30. ^ Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018. Church Publishing, Inc. December 1, 2019. ISBN 978-1-64065-234-7.
  31. ^ "Father Damien: The Leper Priest (1980)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 21, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

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