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A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark 3:20-21

Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

REFLECTION: “When his relatives heard of this, they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” ”

I never thought I would encounter a leper since there are successful treatments for this disease. It happened one day when a leper phoned in an order at a local restaurant where I worked. I was running the register and had to exchange money for the food. My heart sunk when I looked at his face covered with disfigured skin, but I held fast to decorum, tried to check my emotions and stuck out my hand to receive money from his leprosy-ladened hand. He gently placed the money on the counter and left with his food. My co-worker promptly came out from hiding in the back and told me I shouldn’t have taken that money. I guess she thought that was a crazy thing for me to do.

Today is the feast day of St. Marianne Cope, a nun who is known for setting up hospitals and working to help lepers on the islands of Hawaii. She was born January 23, 1838 and joined the thousands of German immigrants to America as a baby. Her parents settled in Utica, New York where she attended St. Joseph parish school until eighth grade, when her father became an invalid. She worked until her father died and her family could support themselves. Then, she followed her dream of becoming a religious sister and joined the third Order Regular of St. Francis Sisters in Syracuse, New York. There she worked to open two Catholic hospitals in central New York, and by 1883 became the Superior General of the congregation.

At this time, King Kalakaua of Hawaii petitioned many religious orders to help care for leprosy patients among the islands. Fifty other religious institutes declined the offer. But St. Marianne responded by saying, “I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen ones, whose privilege it will be, to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor Islanders... I am not afraid of any disease; hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers.”

So, St. Marianne and six of her sisters answered King Kalakaua’s desperate plea by working in hospitals in Oahu, Maui and in the remote island of Molokai. The latter being the mission of Fr. Damien, where St. Marianne cared for him until his death in 1889.

Thirty-five years of hard work to care for lepers did have its toll on her body. She used a wheelchair at the end of her life until she died of natural causes on August 9, 1918. Miraculously, she never contracted this highly contagious disease, also known as Hansen’s disease. She was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012.

Let us pray to St. Marianne to heal our fears of helping others where no one else will step forward. May our priests go with the same fearless conviction of serving others and follow St. Marianne’s example.


PAPA Foundation
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