Barbara Koob (now officially “Cope”) lived in Utica, New York. She had moved there from Germany with her family when she was only one year old. Later her father became ill, and she had to go to work in a factory to support her family. But that’s not the end of the story. She went on to make a difference in the lives of thousands of people with leprosy in Hawaii.
When she was 24, she joined the Sisters of St. Francis and took the name Sr. Marianne. She became the head of the order. One day in 1883 she received a letter from a priest in Hawaii. He asked her to send sisters from her order to help people suffering from leprosy. Marianne decided not only to send six of the sisters, but to go with them.
Lived in exile
At that time leprosy was an incurable disease. People suffering from it were sent away, never to return home. At first Sr. Marianne and the six sisters cared for people in the hospital before they were exiled to the leper colony on the island of Molokai. Later Sr.
Marianne went to Molokai herself. She tried to make life better for those living there.
She helped Fr. Damien de Veuster with his work with the lepers and took on his role after he died of leprosy. Her life on Molokai wasn’t easy, but she cheerfully trusted God. She opened her heart to the needs of those who had been exiled and forgotten. She dedicated
her life to serving others as Jesus did. This United States saint was canonized in 2012.
What we can do
■ Talk about this saint. Why did she work in a factory? Then what did she do? Who sent her a letter? What did Marianne do in response? Who did she help in Hawaii? What did she do on the island of Molokai? Why is it important to be cheerful when helping others? How can we help people who are sick?
■ Encourage children to pray for people who are sick. Ask children to name people such as those in the hospital and care centers, the homebound, people having surgery, the mentally ill, those undergoing cancer treatment, and others. Say a prayer with the group that all these people will know that God is with them.
■ Collect first-aid items for a local free clinic. These clinics are staffed by people who volunteer their time to serve those who cannot afford medical care. Ask children and families to donate items from the clinic’s wish list, such as gauze, adhesive tape,
cotton balls, first-aid cream, and hand sanitizer.
Loving God, thank you for your love for all people. Guide us to love others in your name. Help us to be like St. Marianne Cope, who saw a need and did something about it. May we trust you even when life is difficult, as she did. May we bring comfort to the lives of other people, especially those who are sick and suffering.Amen.
Patricia Mathson, MRE, has years of experience as a director of religious education. She has authored many books, including her latest: 33 Mass Lessons and Activities for Children from Twenty-Third Publications.