Sandra Scott Travels: Remembering Saint Marianne Cope

Saint Marianne Cope.

Saint Marianne Cope.

Last week I asked: Who is called “Sister of the Outcasts?”

Saint Marianne Cope.

Molokai leper colony
Molokai leper colony

Years ago when I read James Mitchner’s “Hawaii” I was impressed by the part that dealt with the leper colony which was contagious.

Today, Hansen’s Disease, as the preferred name, is curable.

So great was the fear of contraction Hansen’s Disease that, in Hawaii, those with the disease were sent to Kalaupapa on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.

Saint Marianne Cope.
Saint Marianne Cope.

Kalaupapa was isolated as it was a projection of land bounded by a high sea cliff and the pounding ocean thus making it nearly inaccessible.

When I was on Molokai I did not visit Kalaupapa, now a National Park, and now wish I had.

There are two ways to get there, on a prearranged tour down a 3.5-mile treacherous trail on a mule or flying in but that costs several hundred dollars.

Guess that’s why John and I didn’t go.

Molokai lookout
Molokai lookout

I contented myself to looking down on the settlement and reading the sign boards atop the sea cliffs.

Saint Marianne Cope of the Order of St. Francis is also known as Saint Marianne of Molokai.

I recently visited the Saint Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum in Syracuse where I learned about her dedication to those banished to Kalaupapa.

In 1883, Sister Cope received a plea for help caring for the leprosy sufferers from King Kalakaua.

Saint Marianne Cope in her own words.
Saint Marianne Cope in her own words.

More than 50 religious groups had declined but not Cope.

She replied, “I am not afraid of any disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minster to the abandoned lepers.”

In October of that year, Cope and six sisters left Syracuse for Hawaii.

One was Sister Leopoldina who chronicled their time helping lepers.

Not one of the sisters contracted leprosy.

The long journey.
The long journey.

The sisters took the train to California then a week-long sea trip to Hawaii.

Sr. Marianne was very seasick, which is probably the reason she never left the islands.

In Maui she founded St. Anthony’s Schools and the island’s first hospital.

It must have come naturally because she was instrumental in opening two of the first Catholic hospitals in Central New York: St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Utica and St. Joseph Hospital Health Center in Syracuse.

In 1888, the sisters moved to Kalaupapa to care for those with Hansen’s disease.

In addition to bringing professional hospital care she sought to improve the patients’ quality of life by treating them with dignity and respect.

Marianne reliquary
Marianne reliquary

The Saint Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum has excellent displays dealing with her life, her time in Hawaii and her road to sainthood.

Displays included her trunk, desk and Sister Leopoldina’s journal relating their time at Kalaupapa.

She took charge of the home Father Damien had established for men and boys.

She introduced cleanliness, pride and fun for the people.

Bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women and games for the children was part of her approach.

Today there are only a few permanent residents.

Her life is inspirational.

Marianne's desk.
Marianne’s desk.

I am in awe of anyone who dedicates their life to a cause that benefits mankind.

She said, “Let us make the very best use of the precious moments…” and “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.”

Her work did not go unnoticed or unknown.

Marianne Cope died in 1918 and was beatified in 2005 and canonized in 2012.

Her reliquary at the shrine is flanked by feathered standards of honor reserved for Hawaiian royalty.

Trivia Tease™: What state is famed for bourbon?

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!


  1. I enjoyed your article, Sandy. It’s always nice to hear about real-life heroes who quietly went about their work without expecting any attention. What a great story!

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