Sunday, January 31, 2016

St. Joseph's Hospital, Mother Marianne Cope, Miracles, and my sickness...

The past few weeks have been what I consider a nightmare.  I have been in and out of the hospital, emotionally up and down, as well as concerned and afraid.  Out of it all has come a strange mixture of poetry, history and a dose of religion.

I was reading an article on St. Josephs Hospital when stories of poetry and Mother Marianne Cope rose out of the pages of time and whizzed into today.

My poetry blog that I work on periodically was stuck in a standstill of thoughts and rhymes, and I hit a story on Robert Louis Stevenson.  Seems that Stevenson took time to visit Kalawao, on May 22, 1889, and he visited the hospital for Lepers run by the Sisters whose leader was Sister Marianne Cope. Under Mother Cope’s leadership the sisters ran the Kaka’ako Branch of a Hospital on the island of Oahu.  It is here that patients of Leprosy (also know as Hansen’s disease) from all of the Hawaiian Islands were sent.  This location was used as a site of isolation for lepers, keeping them from the general population.

While there Stevenson wrote this poem:

 To see the infinite pity of this place,
The-mangled limb,
The devastated face,
The innocent sufferers smiling at the rod,
A fool were tempted to deny his God.
He sees, and shrinks; but if he look again,
Lo, beauty springing from the breast of pain!
He marks the sisters on the painful shores,
And even a fool is silent and adores.

This poem was such a great find, since I was in St. Joseph’s Hospital one of the very Hospitals that she worked so hard to found here in CNY in the 1860’s, the other being St. Elizabeths in Utica. It is at that time Sister Marianne was elected to the Governing Council of her religious order (Franciscan Nuns) and appointed Superior General Director of the very hospital I was in.  At that time St. Joe’s was considered the first public hospital to take in all patients regardless of race, color or creed. Mother Marianne served in that position from 1870 until 1877.

The thing that changed her life and history, was a letter in 1883 from a Father Damian in Hawaii, requesting help.  By this time she was the Provincial Mother of the area and wrote that she was “hungry for the work and not afraid of catching the dreaded disease.” And so she went to Hawaii.

That day I had asked a friend, Barbara Keough, to bring me my copy of the Mother Cope prayer and the card put out by the Sisters of St. Frances to help get Sainthood proclaimed for her. 

It is here that this story intersected with another piece of my life for it was one of the two women…. who were the miracles attributed to Mother Cope, was a good friend and had been a nurses aide for my mother…her name was Kate Mahoney.

That night I ran a raging fever and when it broke I realized I was still holding clenched in my hand the card with the picture of Cope and her prayer. It is then that I realized while gazing at the rooms memo board that the date was January 23rd, the day set aside by the Catholic Church to honor our new Saint.

I like so many are praying to her for help and I can’t help but feel that I was helped by her that night.

For more information on Saint Marianne Cope you can visit the Internet and the many sites devoted to her life and her miracles.  I have also written a blog on our two new CNY Saints Kateri and Mother Cope.  I also attribute a personal miracle to Mother Cope involving my mother. Here is a link to it… http://backstreetmary.blogspot.com/2011/12/mother-cope-close-to-home.html

 Kate Mahoney has a Facebook page
























Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas, Children's Books, Mog the Cat and Sainsbury history... all rolled into one!


With all of the Christmas advertisements, internet marketing, and media blitzes to entice us to buy for Christmas or the “Holidays”....  I was amazed to find an advertising campaign that I loved.  I fell upon it while surfing, it was an ad for a very British supermarket chain called Sainsbury.  So of course I was on a "history quest" to learn more, since I remember Sainsbury’s from a trip to London at Christmas many years ago.

Located on historic Druy Lane the company was founded in 1869 by a man named John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann.  Eventually the company expanded and by 1922 it was London’s largest grocery store…in our area much like Wegman’s. Early in its existence it featured “self-service”... a unique concept in those days of personal help in the local stores, it also featured its own brand of goods.

The success of the store was due to its ownership, which remained rooted in family members.  In World War II it stayed open despite the bombing of London and its stores in many other areas (one of which that was severely damaged) and the rationing of foodstuffs. 

The company later was overcome by a competitor Tesco Foods, but today after being split into 3 corporate entities and much needed change was implemented, it opened its 1000th store.

As a way to give back to the community this year it asked children’s book author and artist Judith Kerr to take her famous clumsy hero cat Mog out of retirement in a book and commercial for the holiday season. 

The new book is being sold by Sainsbury's that will donate all of its profits to Save the Children in its effort to promote child literacy… a very important mission of Kerr’s artistic and wonderful children’s books... she has written 15. 

Kerr herself is at 92 and has had an association with her publisher Harper Collins Books for over 50 years, for fun she actually gets a cameo in the video.  Bringing Mog,  her clumsy feline character to life on the screen was a remarkable accomplishment that she thought she would never see.

The commercial edition with its message of sharing has skyrocket around the world via the web and in this year of tragedy and terror I have taken to watching the little video many mornings just to smile and enjoy Mog and his antics. 


Watch and enjoy the Christmas Message! 

Merry Christmas to all!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Christmastime, refugees story, history, Fort Ontario and the American participation in WWII.

With all of the wrangling about immigration and the refugee problem I thought it would do us well to look to the past.  Our past has been clouded by bigotry for many years, as a matter of fact because of our quotas during WWII
we acted selfishly in forcing our Allies and friends to take in refugees but failed to do it ourselves.  Here is a local story on history that you can learn about today and part of it took place at Christmastime.

One of the least known Christmas time stories from history happened on December 22, 1945, when the then President Truman issued his “Truman Directive” executive order. This order finally allowed the United States to fill immigration quotas with what were then labeled as DP’s, “displaced persons”.
This story had its immediate impact with the only refugee camp for DP’s in the United States, a camp at Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY, now known as Safe Haven.

This little known piece of history is an interesting look into the policies of the United States on immigration, (especially Jewish). A time when we set tight limits on the number of immigrants allowed entering the USA, because of the war that was on.. The fact remained that as the Allied Forces swept through Europe and Nazi Concentration Camps were liberated, the many people who lived through the horrific experience had no place to go. Though countries all over the world took in DP’s the, United States did not.

With much political pressure, Roosevelt finally in 1944 allowed 982 Holocaust survivors and political prisoners of war that were liberated or displaced to come the United States as his “Guests”. Interior Secretary Harold Ickes sent Ruth Gruber an assistant to escort these refugees to the United States and to record their stories..
The people who were chosen met a criteria that consisted of those who had helped in the Allied War effort, had lost relatives in the Holocaust, had family in the United States or had talents that could help run the American shelter. The selection also gave preference to those who had several family members with them. The catch was that after the war they would all have to return to their homeland – they had no standing; they were only regarded as guests of the President.

The group left from Naples, Italy on the troop transport Henry Gibbons under heavy escort; the ship also carried another 1,000 wounded service men. Ruth Gibbons in her book “Haven” which was made into a TV movie, chronicled the trip and stories of these refugees. It also showed how much pressure had to be used to get just this small group of mostly “Jews” to the United States.

As the war came to a close in 1945, these immigrants who had learned English, whose children attended school in Oswego, and who had become part of the American spirit were to be shipped back; many to homes that no longer existed and to a world devastated by war.

The “Truman Directive” issued while Congress was on Christmas holiday came in time to keep these people from this. The fact was however, that they had to leave the United Sates and then return with visas. Taking the refugees to the Rainbow Bridge in Canada, and then allowing them to reenter with visas accomplished this. Of the 982, only 100 chose to return to their homeland.

Today the Safe Haven Museum at Fort Ontario welcomes visitors and through beautiful displays and video helps tell about this dark time in American history, a time when we ourselves turned our backs on not only Jewish immigrants, but also on our own American Japanese citizens.

The fort itself  is trying to gain National Park status and it is my hope they succeed. The Safe Haven Museum located on its grounds is open year-round and for more information on its open times and directions go to www.oswegohaven.org.




Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving, West Eaton Cemetery and a piece of history on the Larchmont Shipwreck!


Quite a week here in Eaton as a warm spell brought out people scurrying around outdoors to do the jobs they missed earlier.  Thanksgiving proved to be a beautiful day, warm and balmy, a wonderful boon to the local travelers.

The old house in Eaton housed a small Thanksgiving gathering for museum members those who wanted a place to gather, eat and enjoy each other’s company.  Myself I was happy to have the company and it seemed we all shared the duty of cooking, cleaning and of course, there was too much food.

After a walk on Friday a few of us visited the West Eaton Cemetery so Barbara could visit her husband’s and his families graves, and it was there I spotted a cemetery stone that interested me.  The stone read that the person laying beneath the sod and died in the sinking of the Larchmont.  This as usual peeked my curiosity and I was off on a “History Quest”!

It seems the Larchmont disaster of February 11, 1907, was considered by many to be the Titanic of the eastern seaboard as the steam driven side paddle wheeler sank in 15 to 20 minutes taking over 150 people to their frozen watery deaths.

The 23-year-old Larchmont was a wooden, side-wheel steamship that was 252 feet long by 37 feet wide and was painted white with two tall black smokestacks. It left Providence, Rhode Island at 7 o’clock en-route for New York when a terrible winter storm soon struck causing waves of over 20 feet high and reduced visibility. The Larchmont and coal schooner the Harry P. Knowlton collided in this blizzard only three miles from Watch Hill, Rhode Island.  It was reported that the two ships maneuvered to avoid collision but maneuvered the in the same way causing the Knowlton to strikes with such speed and force that the Larchmont’s fate was sealed.


The collision occurred just after the Captain of the Lachmont (who was only 27) had left his post to retire for the night, Since the passengers were in nightclothes, many in their cabins below deck, they had little hope of surviving temperatures that were zero and below with up to 60 mile per hour winds.


The Captain of the Henry Knowlton who separated from the Larchmont saw no lights and assumed the ship had sailed away for help, he himself attempted a run for the Block Island beach to beach the craft which eventually happened causing the Knowlton to be dashed and splintered by the ferocious waves.



There were approximately 150 passengers and crewmembers on board although the exact number and names will never be known since the passenger list went down with the ship.  Of that number only 17 people survived. Seventy-four ice-encrusted bodies were washed up on the beaches of Block Island and were shipped home for burial including obviously, Mr. Wightman. The remainder either went down with the ship or drifted out to sea in lifeboats, never to be seen again.

I guess Mr. Wightman had become somewhat famous for being onboard the “Titanic of the East” and so because of this it was noted on his gravestone. 

Another piece of local history and lore, interesting history brought out by a stroll through a cemetery.  An unusual way to learn it!