Cope, Marianne

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Missionary to hawaiĬ, b. Heppenhein, a village in the German Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt, 1838; d. Molokai, Hawai'i, 1918, age 80. Two years after Barbara Koob was born in Germany, her family immigrated to Utica, New York. On arrival, they changed their name to Cope. Barbara joined the Sisters of St. Francis (O.S.F.) in Syracuse, New York, in 1862 and took the name in religion, Sister Marianne. After she taught and administered schools in New York, she became administrator of Syracuse's first hospital. Her leadership brought the Geneva Medical College to Syracuse for a successful development of medical practices between the hospital and the college.

Cope became the major superior of the Sisters in Syracuse in 1877. In 1883, after a letter and visit from Father Leonor Fouesnel, emissary from the Kingdom of Hawai'i, Mother Marianne and six sisters from her community went to the Kingdom of Hawai'i that year to work with lepers. Initially she was not sure how long she would remain there because of her responsibilities as the major superior, but she decided to remain permanently until her death. On arrival in 1883, they worked at the Kaka'ako Branch Hospital in O'ahu, where Hansen's disease patients were received and processed for shipment to Molokai. Two years later, Mother Marianne and her sisters established the Kapi'olani Home for the daughters of Hansen's disease patients who were quarantined in Molokai.

In 1888, Mother Marianne and two sisters, Srs. Leopoldina Burns and Vincentia McCormick accepted Father Damien's invitation to work with Hansen's disease patients on the island of Molokai, a ministry they continued after his death. Arriving on Nov. 14, 1888, they took charge of the Bishop Home for Girls in Kalaupapa. From 1888 to 1895, they also managed the Home for Boys at Kalawao that Father Damian had earlier founded. Her indefatigable spirit, unflagging optimism, and self-sacrificing devotion inspired her sisters to cope with the extremely heavy and punishing workload of caring for women and children with Hansen's disease. In 1918, at the age of 80, she passed away and her remains are buried on the grounds of her beloved Bishop Home for Girls, now a national park monument.

Mother Marianne led one of the earliest American Catholic women's congregations to establish missions outside the United States, when she set up homes for women and children with Hansen's disease in the Kingdom of Hawai'i. In doing so, she became the first U.S. Catholic woman missionary to minister to patients with Hansen's disease. She also practiced an ecumenism of good works, saying to her community: "The charity of the good knows no creed, and is confined to no one place."

Bibliography: m. l. hanley and o. a. bushnell, A Song of Pilgrimage and Exile (Chicago 1980). m. l. hanley and o. a. busnell, Pilgrimage and Exile: Mother Marianne of Molokai (Honolulu 1991). e. a. lenk, Mother Marianne Cope (18381918): The Syracuse Franciscan Community and Molokai Lepers (Ph.D. diss., Syracuse University, 1986).

[a. dries]