Saint Marianne Cope
Servant of the Lepers (1838-1918)
Barbara Koob, who wasborn in Germany, immigrated with her family to the United States, where their name became Cope. In 1862 she entered the Third Order Regular of Fransicans annd received her religious name. Her hearly years were spent teaching in her order’s schools and later serving as administrator of a hospital. In 1883, now the superior general of her congregation, she receivbed a request from King Kalakaua in Hawaii for help in caring for leprosy patients. Though fifty orther congregations had already declined the king’s plea, Mother Marianne responded at once: “I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen Ones, whose privelege it will be, to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor Islanders.”
That year she and six sisters sailed for Hawaii and immediately set to work establishing a hospital in Maui. In light of the fear of contagion and the social stigma attached to those suffering from Hansen’s disease, the sisters’ dedication to their patients won wide respect. Eventually Mother Marianne consented to move to the island of Molokai, where the most serious cases were confined. There, one of her first tasks was to care for Fr. (now) St. Damien de Veuster, the famous “Apostle to the Lepers,” who had contracted the disease during his long years of work.
St. Marianne died of natural causes on August 9, 1918. She was canonized in 2012. Her feast day is January 23, the date of her birth.
“What little good we can do in this world to help and comfort the suffering, we wish to do it quietly and so far as possible unnoticed and unknown.” –St. Marianne Cope
Every age has its stories of heroic men and women whose faith challenges them to reach out in heroic love and service to alleviate the sufferings of their brothers and sisters.
This is the story of one such hero. He was born Joseph De Veuster, a Belgian farm boy. He is known now to all the world as Damien the Leper. His bronze figure graces the statuary hall in Washington, D.C.
Damien’s compassion for the lepers led him to spend sixteen years in the “living graveyard that was Molokai,” where he died at the age of forty-nine in service to people suffering from the terrible disease of leprosy.
Damien never lost sight of his life’s purpose, despite the many difficulties and sufferings he bore. It was only his faith that enabled him to endure the trials that his life’s work caused him.
We hope that you enjoy this story and find it a source of strength and encouragement.
A Letter Written Entirely in St. Damien’s Own Hand:
The artifact presented here is known to be excessively rare given the contagious illness St. Damien contracted four years before his death. The fact that St. Damien was canonized on October 11, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI, makes this letter, not only rare, but a sacred item of a canonized saint. It is an exceedingly rare and treasured part of the Papal Artifacts’ Collection.
The Stations of the Cross Will Be Received with Many Thanks: The Saint Damien of Molokai Letter
Damien, Father Joseph Damien de Veuster, a Belgian Catholic missionary to the leper colony in Molokai, Hawaii, joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1840. He served as a missionary in the islands of Hawaii for several years before volunteering to serve the lepers on Molokai in 1865. For eleven years Damien ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of the colony, helping them to build cottages and roads. He contracted leprosy in 1884, dying from its ravages four years later.
This letter, known in the world of collecting, is an ALS: an autographed letter, signed, is the concluding page of a three page letter, signed, “J. Damien Deveuster.” There is no date but it is probably after he had contracted leprosy.
The letter was written to Edward Clifford, an accomplished artist from England. He visited Damien in December 1888 and rendered several sketches of the dying priest. The letter concerns the Stations of the Cross that were being given to the Catholic church on Molokai where Damien lived at the leper colony established there.
Please visit the rest of this story on Papal History/Saints & Blesseds/Damien. The link is below.