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Hawaii nuns describe life of soon-to-be saint

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 8:59 a.m. HST, Jan 2, 2012


WAILUKU >>Sister Rose Annette Ahuna walks the same paths on a remote Molokai peninsula where a soon-to-be saint treaded while caring for exiled leprosy patients.

Ahuna and other nuns who have been researching Blessed Mother Marianne Cope describe her as tough, yet kind. The pope recently announced Marianne will be canonized, making her the second saint with ties to Kalaupapa. A date for canonization has not yet been set but it's expected to take place in 2012. In 1888, Marianne, then 45, succeeded Father Damien in caring for patients exiled to there. Damien gained sainthood in 2009.

Ahuna is one of two nuns from Cope's order who volunteer in Kalaupapa. "She encouraged everyone," Ahuna told the Maui News. "She and Father Damien also understood people regardless of their religion. And no matter what she was doing, she would put it down to help someone."

Soon-to-be Saint Marianne was the only one of 50 religious leaders to respond positively to an emissary from Hawaii who requested for nuns to help care for Hansen's disease patients on Kalaupapa, the religious order said, earning her the title of "beloved mother of the outcasts."

Marianne was known for demanding money from the government to help the leprosy patients. She wasn't "afraid to pursue anything for her people," said Sister Davilyn Ah Chick of Honolulu.

"I'm sure she would be saying, 'What is all this fuss about me for? Oh, forget about it,'" Ah Chick said.

The nuns said Marianne is credited with having a school built and teaching women and girls to sew and garden. She was also a source of support during a time of much suffering, which included abuse, families forced apart and the banning of pregnancies, Ahuna said.

Marianne died there of natural causes in 1918.

The Kalaupapa settlement is now a National Historic Park. The government has spent more than $1 million restoring parts of the peninsula associated with Marianne's work including a chapel, nuns' living quarters and walking paths.

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