This weekend, the long road to sainthood will finally be realized for two women with roots in Upstate New York. Mother Marianne Cope and Kateri Tekakwitha will be canonized during a ceremony Sunday. Hundreds of Catholic faithful have traveled to Vatican City for the celebration and YNN's Bill Carey is there as well. He re-introduces us to the women soon-to-be known as saints.
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VATICAN CITY -- Mother Marianne Cope came to the Utica area at the age of two in the mid 1800s, eventually traveling down the road to Syracuse to join the Sisters of St Francis. She helped found and establish two major hospitals: St. Elizabeth’s in Utica and St. Joseph’s in Syracuse.
Then, at the age of 40, she answered a call for help from the Hawaiian islands, battling an outbreak of Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy. She eventually assumed the work of another canonized saint, Father Damien, overseeing care for patients at Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai.
Sister Patricia Burkhard of the Sisters of St. Francis said, “She did what she thought was hers to do. Her compassion, I think, was one of the characteristics that makes it stand out. She had a desire to help the most outcast.”
New Yorkers are being joined by pilgrims from Hawaii, including some of those who had been exiled to Kalaupapa. They have been waiting years for this weekend.
“It’s a blessing. It’s a blessing and it’s a pleasure that we lived to see it,” said Kalaupapa patient Gloria Marks said.
The wait for sainthood for Mother Marianne has been a long one, but it doesn’t compare to the nearly 400 years that have passed since the death of another woman due to be canonized here at the Vatican this weekend, the first Native American Saint. We call her Kateri Tekakwitha.
The Haudenoshaunee, members of the six nation confederacy, call her Ga-da-lee. She was just four years old when small pox swept her Mohawk village near Fonda, New York, killing her mother and father and leaving her scarred and nearly blind. Yet she dedicated her life to care for others and embraced a new religion, Catholicism, despite pressure from other members of her nation.
Mohawk author Doug George-Kanentiio said, “You're looking for something to embrace that gives you stability. And, to her, she found the answers to these changes that were taking place among the Mohawks, within the Catholic: Faith.”
Proponents of both new Saints say this canonization will have an impact.
Friar Mark Steed said, “All children are looking for heroes. They saw in her a native hero. Now, in years past, looking for a native hero, especially in the Church, would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Because there weren't any.”
Bishop Robert Cunningham said, “The Church has its heroes. And we hold these people out as examples of what living their life in friendship with the Lord can do.”
Thousands are due to crowd this square on Sunday to honor these two very different women, who will share the title of Saint.