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Hawaiian nun moves toward sainthood

Mother Marianne Cope, the Franciscan nun whose name and mission have been linked with Fr Damien of Molokai, is now a step closer to being declared a saint.

It was announced last week that her cause was unanimously accepted by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints. She is expected to be soon declared venerable, ahead of beatification and eventual canonisation.

Mother Marianne arrived in Hawaii in 1883 after King David Kalakaua had asked for Mainland Catholic help for the children of Hansen's disease (leprosy) patients in what was then being called Hawaii's "national affliction".

The superior of her Franciscan convent in New York, Mother Marianne responded to the call and brought six other nuns with her. She never left the Islands, dying there in 1918 at age 80.

Mother Marianne lived in Kalaupapa for the last five months of Fr Damien's life after she had arrived to establish a women's home on the tiny peninsula. She was different from the stubborn Belgian priest, who defied authority and eventually came down with Hansen's disease himself.

"She worked with authority," said Sr Mary Laurence Hanley, whose research frequently brought her to Hawaii and who serves as the order's "cause director" for Mother Marianne's sainthood in New York.

"She worked with the government more and tried to go through official channels as much as possible. She knew when to raise her voice (and) when it would do no good to do so."

Mother Marianne's legacy has spawned books, plays and songs, and she has been listed among the legendary figures in Hawaii's history and among the most notable women of Hawaii. Besides creating the women's home for Hansen's disease patients on Molokai, she also started what is now Maui Memorial Hospital, the first hospital on Maui. After Father Damien's death, she took over administration of the men's and boys' home on Molokai.

Kalaupapa nun moves toward sainthood (Honolulu Advertiser)

Mother Marianne Cope and the Sisters of St. Francis (Kalaupapa National Historical Park)
Servant of God Mother Marianne Cope (catholic
St Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii

29 Oct 2003