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Hawaii students get first viewing of relic of Blessed nun



Students of an Oahu Catholic school on Thursday were the first in Hawaii to view a relic of a nun who succeeded Father Damien in caring for leprosy patients exiled to a Molokai settlement.

The relic of Blessed Marianne Cope was on display for students at St. Francis School in Manoa, which was founded by her religious order. “If it weren’t for Mother Marianne, St. Francis School wouldn’t be here,” said principal Sister Joan of Arc Souza.

Mother Marianne is one of five so-called Blesseds in the country and is poised to become the next saint with Hawaii ties. Father Damien gained sainthood in 2009.

A nun traveling from New York hand-carried the small box holding the reliquary of bone fragments from Mother Marianne’s remains.

“It was a humbling experience to know I was carrying precious cargo,” said Sister Patricia Burkard, who arrived Wednesday in Honolulu.

St. Francis School is the relic’s first stop on a tour of the Hawaiian islands before going on permanent display in a downtown Honolulu cathedral.

“This is something once in a lifetime for these young people,” Souza said. “It’s a tremendous thing.”

Born in Germany and raised in Utica, N.Y., Mother Marianne cared for Hansen’s disease patients at the Kalaupapa settlement on Molokai in 1888, five months after the death of Father Damien. She died of natural causes in 1918 and was buried there.

Her body was exhumed in 2005 and taken to the Sisters of St. Francis Motherhouse in Syracuse, N.Y. Sister Margaret Antone Milho, a St. Francis School counselor, witnessed the exhumation.

In 2004, Pope John Paul II declared Mother Marianne “venerable,” the first step toward canonization after the Vatican recognized her intercession for the unexplained cure of a New York girl dying of multiple organ failure. The Vatican must authenticate another miracle for her to be declared a saint.


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