For years, my mom used to work at Craven Crawford Elementary School as a teacher aide. For years, it was a school filled with caring and warmth, and in later years, became a haven for many children who did not have good home lives. For years, my mom and many other wonderful staff would lift up the broken spirited with their kind and compassionate words. Seeing the good in some of the worst troublemakers undoubtedly made an impact. And for years, after these troubled students long left CCE, their faces would and still light up when they recognize Mrs. Z at the store or somewhere out in public.
While I believe my own mom a saint (aren't all mothers?), I want to transition to Mother Marianne Cope, who was officially named a saint by the Vatican in October 2013. Once we learned that one of our very own was going to be canonized, she made the news quite often. I came to understand a bit of her story, too — who she was and why she was so special. I think it's important to mention all she did for the afflicted and downtrodden in her day.
Not only did she found St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse and St. Elizabeth's in Utica — two of the first 50 hospitals in the United States, she also spent the latter part of her life caring for lepers on the island of Molokai in Hawaii.
She is celebrated as the "Mother of Outcasts."
In 2013, I interviewed a nun about Mother Marianne Cope for a local magazine. She told me the inherent reverence that Mother Marianne had for people and their dignity was uppermost. She never discriminated.
She was in her 40's when she, along with six sisters, journeyed to the Hawaiian islands to tend to those with Hansen's Disease, better known as leprosy. Because there was no cure, the Hawaiian government was shipping the affected to the island of Molokai, separated from their families for the rest of their lives. The scare was so spectacular that people with unknown skin conditions at the time, such as eczema or acne, were also being incorrectly diagnosed as having the incurable disease.