IT MAKES SENSE TO ME
By Larry Peterson
Maria Anna Barbara Koob was born on January 23, 1838 in Germany. The year after her birth her mom and dad emigrated to America settling in Utica, N.Y. Devout Catholics, they joined St. Joseph’s Parish near their new home. They also changed their name to Cope to become more “American”. The years moved by and Maria’s mom gave birth to nine more children. Life was never dull in the Cope household.
Maria felt a call to the religious life when she was very young. However, as the oldest of ten children, loyalty to family would take precedence over any personal ambitions she might have had. When her dad took ill and became an invalid, the eighth grader was forced to go to work in a textile factory to help support the family. Maria continued working in the textile mill for almost ten years.
|St. Marianne Cope courtesy catholic.org|
Maria’s dad passed on in 1862 but by then some of her younger siblings were helping with the family’s daily life, including finances. Maria, at 25 years-old, was finally able to pursue her dream. She entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse, N.Y. On November 19, 1862 she received the habit and became Sister Marianne.
Sister Marianne had wanted to be a teacher but for some reason began doing administrative work. She quickly found herself appointed to the governing boards of her religious community and helped establish the first two hospitals in central New York State. This was followed by becoming the nurse-administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse N.Y.
Sister Marianne had outstanding organizational and leadership skills but she also possessed a deep and almost natural affinity for those considered marginalized and treated as “outcasts”. She was even criticized for her special devotion to those who needed help the most. It was also obvious to others that the Holy Spirit moved within her.
By 1883 she was the Provincial Mother in Syracuse and known as Mother Marianne Cope. One day she received an unexpected letter from a Catholic priest in Hawaii. He was asking for help in managing schools and hospitals in the Hawaiian Islands. The letter was also clear that the main focus of the work would be with leprosy patients. Mother Marianne’s life purpose had just been laid before her.
Filled instantly with an overwhelming desire to help those who were not only seriously ill but also marginalized and rejected, she wrote back, “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.” *
*This article also appeared in Aleteia magazine on 10/09/2016
Copyright©Larry Peterson All Rights reserved 2016