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Hawaii twice blessed

12:15 AM October 15, 2012

HONOLULU—Hawaii must be the most “saintly” of all states in America.

In a few days, hundreds of devotees from Hawaii will begin the 10,000-mile pilgrimage to the Vatican to attend the canonization of Mother Marianne Cope before Pope Benedict XVI on October 21. For most of them, this will be their second pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Square in just three years.

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Fr. Damien de Veuster, who ministered to thousands of leprosy (now Hansen’s Disease) patients on Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai, became the first saint of Hawaii in 2009.

The unique thing about the upcoming canonization of Mother Marianne is that she and St. Damien knew each other. They met before he fell ill of Hansen’s Disease himself, and she took care of him until he died.

The other distinctive feature of Mother Marianne’s elevation to sainthood, especially from the perspective of Filipinos, is that it coincides with the canonization of Pedro Calungsod, likewise the second saint the Philippines has produced. Calungsod was a lay Church member who was killed in Guam in 1692 while assisting in a baptismal ceremony. His body was dragged out to sea, never to be recovered.

Thousands of Filipinos from California, Guam, Hawaii and the Philippines itself will certainly be joining the pilgrimage to Rome this month.

Born Barbara Kobb in West Germany in 1838, Mother Marianne immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was a baby. In 1862, she took her vows as a nun with the St. Francis order.

In November 1883, she and six other nuns and 35 volunteers arrived in Honolulu aboard the SS Mariposa in response to then Hawaii monarch David Kalakaua’s plea for help in the care of women and children at the height of the leprosy epidemic. Mother Marianne established the first medical facility on Maui called Maunalani Hospital. The King conferred upon her the Royal Order of Kapiolani, which was named after the King’s wife, Queen Kapiolani.

It was in 1884 that Mother Marianne met Father Damien, who had been ministering to the leprosy patients in Kalaupapa, where he had established a church and decent quarters for the patients. Unfortunately, he was stricken with the disease in 1886 and died three years later.

Mother Marianne took over Father Damien’s duties in 1888, while tending to him. She lived until the age of 80 in Kalaupapa’s Bishop Home, where she died of kidney and heart failure in 1918.

She became the Venerable Marianne Cope in 2004, after Pope John Paul II affirmed a miracle attributed to her, and was declared “Blessed Marianne” the following year.

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In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed Blessed Marianne’s eligibility for sainthood after Church theologians unanimously decided that a second miracle was due to her “intercession.” The Vatican requires two miracles for canonization.

Mother Marianne will officially become the “Patron Saint of Outcasts” at the Vatican.

After Damien was canonized in 2009, the once-remote Kalaupapa peninsula became a popular tourist spot. With the coming sainthood of Mother Marianne, it will continue to grow. Now called Kalaupapa National Historical Park, it is  under the jurisdiction of the federal National Park Service.

The park superintendent, Stephen Prokop, had this to say when asked what tourists were most interested in about Kalaupapa: “Visitors are most interested in the story of how the people at Kalaupapa that were afflicted with leprosy were given fairly harsh treatment, and the social injustice that occurred here.” Indeed, the tragic victims of the dreaded disease suffered a fate worse than death, as observers put it. “That story serves as an example to the world of what can happen when people are discriminated against because of a disease that they had no control over,” Prokop continued. “That story of social injustice is very compelling.”

Dr. Belinda A. Aquino is professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she served as professor of political science and Asian studies and director of the Center for Philippine Studies.Hawaii must be the most “saintly” of all states in America.

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TAGS: Catholic Church, Fr. Damien de Veuster, Mother Marianne, religion and belief, Saints
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