Honoring and preserving St. Marianne Cope’s legacy

Visit the Saint Marianne Cope Shrine & Museum in New York

Museum includes the desk and chair Marianne used while administrating the Bishop Home for Girls on the island of Molokai. Photo: Saint Marianne Cope Shrine & Museum.

The Saint Marianne Cope Shrine & Museum located in Syracuse, New York, is dedicated to spreading the message and legacy of St. Marianne Cope. For St. Marianne Cope’s feast day on Jan. 23, we spoke with Museum Director Kristin Barrett-Anderson to learn more about St. Marianne and the museum dedicated to her.

One of the stained glass windows from the original chapel at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, New York. Marianne was the administrator here for seven years before leaving for Hawaii. Photo: Saint Marianne Cope Shrine & Museum.

Can you tell us the story of St. Marianne Cope?

Mother Marianne was instrumental in opening two of the first Catholic hospitals in central New York: St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Utica and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. Recognizing the need for basic health care in a city of immigrants, she and a small group of women defied convention by purchasing a saloon in Syracuse, New York, and transforming it into a hospital to serve the needs of a diverse community. Here they welcomed everyone and provided the same quality of care — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, disease, or economic means. Under Marianne’s leadership, the sisters pioneered rules of patient’s rights and hygiene practices not seen before in the United States.

In 1883, Mother Marianne and a group of six other Sisters of St. Francis journeyed to the Sandwich Islands, now Hawaii, to care for individuals believed to have leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease. The king and queen later asked that the sisters open a home to care for the healthy children of patients and Marianne named it the Kapiolani Home in honor of the queen.

Mother Marianne traveled to Maui in 1884 where she was asked to manage Malulani Hospital, the island’s first general hospital, as well as St. Anthony School. In 1888, she and the sisters moved to Kalaupapa to care for those with Hansen’s disease who had been exiled to the remote peninsula on the island of Molokai. There she cared for Fr. Damien [de Veuster, whom Pope Benedict XVI canonized in 2009] in his last months and attended temporarily to the boy’s home that he had established there until the Sacred Heart Fathers sent a permanent replacement. Mother Marianne not only provided healthcare to those at Bishop Home in Kalaupapa, she offered healing for mind, body, and spirit by creating a community that supported individual creativity, dignity, and respect.

Mother Marianne’s faith and strong foundation of values, compassion, self-sacrifice, devotion, courage and service as a Sister of St. Francis, supported her extraordinary actions that led to her canonization by the Vatican [Pope Benedict XVI]in 2012. In 2005, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

What makes St. Marianne Cope unique?

Marianne was a strong and courageous leader, especially considering the expectations of women in the 1800s. Her faith gave her a clarity of the dignity and respect that every person deserves. This strong faith, along with her skills of leadership and understanding of business and administration, put her in a unique position to develop innovations that advanced and set standards in health care and mind-body-spirit healing.

How was the Saint Marianne Cope Shrine & Museum founded?

Sr. Mary Lawrence Hanley, OSF, was in charge of the cause for canonization for Mother Marianne. During the 35 years that she collected, researched and submitted data to the Vatican, the abundance of materials were held in rooms on the lower level of the sister’s Motherhouse in Syracuse, the first museum.

After the canonization of St. Marianne in October of 2012, the sisters developed a plan for a professional and state-of-the-art shrine and museum. St. Joseph’s Hospital, a sponsored ministry of the sisters, started with the assistance of Marianne in 1869, offered a building on their campus in which to create the museum to hold archives and tell her story. The Saint Marianne Cope Shrine & Museum first opened its doors in July 2014.

What is the museum’s purpose?

The purpose of the museum is much more than the building itself. As devoted stewards of St. Marianne Cope’s life and legacy, we collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret, and share St. Marianne’s inspiring story as a Sister of St. Francis. The St. Marianne Cope museum exists to educate and inspire people from around the world about the life, legacy, and significance of St. Marianne and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.

Much of our efforts are put into developing ways to take Marianne’s story to people all around the world. Through presentations, productions and writings, through organizing, digitizing and publishing her archives and through partnerships and networking, we can share her story well beyond central New York.

Do you host any special events on St. Marianne’s feast day?

We honor Marianne’s legacy of compassion and care by asking people to celebrate by giving of themselves. The museum hosts a number of local service organizations who act in the spirit of St. Marianne through service to the underserved, the environment, and all earth’s creatures. The public is invited to learn about all the wonderful work being done in our community and volunteer their skills, talents, time or voice in furthering the mission of one or more organizations. This is our “Making Spirits Bright” celebration, this year it was held on Saturday, Jan. 20.

What sorts of artifacts and texts are kept in the museum and its archives?

Our archives and museum hold letters written by Mother Marianne categorized by business, religious community, and family. We also hold registers, charters and bylaws of the hospitals and care facilities that Mother Marianne was instrumental in creating. We have diaries and journals of Marianne and her fellow sisters that tell the story of the patients and individuals under their care and give a historic picture of living in exile during the turn of the century. The museum also holds artifacts; items and furniture owned by Marianne and hundreds of historic photographs.

The extensive archives we hold still have much to offer in developing the story of Mother Marianne and her community. Through further organization, we look forward to unearthing new stories, photographs and documents that will give us more insight into this historic period for women, religion, and health care.

Our second gallery holds the reliquary that was built to house St. Marianne’s remains when they were exhumed during the canonization process in 2005. The intricately carved wooden case now houses a first-class relic of St. Marianne and can be used as an altar when desired.

How readers help to support the Saint Marianne Cope Shrine & Museum? 

Sharing the story of Marianne is the key to fulfilling our mission and that of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. We have a number of ways to bring her story to readers and would love to speak with anyone who wants to learn more.

To learn more or support, you can visit the St. Marianne Cope Shrine & Museum website at SaintMarianne.org.

St. Marianne Cope, pray for us!

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