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 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