Saint Marianne’s remains on the move

We were living in Syracuse, NY, a decade ago, and one happy thing about calling that city home was the “presence” of Mother Marianne Cope (or at least her remains). Mother Marianne was a “blessed” during our years there; she has since been canonized a saint, by Pope Benedict in October 2012.

Saint Marianne was born in Germany and raised in Utica, NY, before taking up a religious vocation with the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse. She was administrator of a hospital that still thrives in Syracuse and also the mother superior of the congregation when, in 1883, she moved with six other sisters to Hawaii, to take up humble and heroic work of Saint Damien De Veuster in the last years of the latter saint’s life. She ministered to victims of Hansen’s disease (leprosy) there for 35 years. Though she had planned to go just temporarily, to help the other sisters establish their work there, she became so engaged in the humble and heroic ministry that she never left, dying there in 1918.

At her canonization, Pope Benedict commented in his homily:

At a time when little could be done for those suffering from this terrible disease, Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm. She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved Saint Francis.

Her body remained in Hawaii until 2004, when it was moved back to Syracuse just prior to her beatification. It has been kept in a modest shrine beneath the altar of the main chapel of the Sisters of St. Francis motherhouse. Now she’s going back to Hawaii.

The Associated Press reports:

The relocation is necessary because the buildings of the campus where her remains are housed no longer are structurally sound, requiring the sisters to move to another part of Syracuse, the order said. A piece of her remains, known as a relic, will stay behind in Syracuse.

The sisters decided “through great deliberation and prayer” to return the remains to Hawaii, Sister Roberta Smith said.

“Hawaii is a major destination for the people the world over, and having St. Marianne’s remains there would ensure a steady stream of pilgrims who could continue to be inspired by her, seek her intercession and imitate her dedication and faith,” Smith said.

Bishop Larry Silva of the Honolulu diocese called Marianne’s return a “wonderful blessing.” The sisters approached him a couple of months ago about the possibility of returning her remains, Silva said, and he learned of the final decision Wednesday.

I suppose it all makes sense, but as a former Syracusian who visited the tomb with my family, the move is disappointing.

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