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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, February 24, 2005

Nun to be beatified on May 15

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer

May 15 will be a blessed day for Mother Marianne Cope, the Franciscan nun whose work at the Hansen's disease colony at Kalaupapa has her on track to be the first woman with Hawai'i ties to become a saint, but it doesn't leave her fans too much time to plan a celebration.

Mary Laurence Hanley

Grace Anne Dillenschneider

On that day, Mother Marianne will be declared "blessed" in a beatification ceremony by the pope. The ceremony comes months before it was expected.

"We thought it would be October or November, sometime in the fall," said Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, a member of Mother Marianne's religious order in Syracuse who has been working on the cause for nearly 30 years. "Even merchants in Rome were saying how fast it was. (When Father Damien was beatified in 1995, special medals were created for the occasion.)

"It's incredible. The Holy Spirit is in action and we're just hanging on."

The vice postulator of the cause, Sister Marion Kikukawa, said she needs to check if her passport is up-to-date.

"In one way, it's great — it'd be a wonderful fruition of a lot of work and prayer," Sister Kikukawa said from St. Joseph High in Hilo, where she is principal. "On the other hand, it makes for some quick planning."

When Father Damien, the other Kalaupapa cleric on the road to sainthood, was beatified in 1995, there was about a year to plan the event.

The planning, still in its early stages, has been a whirlwind, said Sister Grace Anne Dillenschneider, assistant general minister for the order in Syracuse, who got the news from Rome on Friday.

"Everything as far as Mother Marianne's cause seems to have moved quickly," she said. "... To me, it means the cause has been seen as very meritorious."

She added that the 90 sisters in Syracuse have been busy since Mother Marianne's remains were returned earlier this month, with hundreds of people lining up at their chapel yesterday to pray and view the sealed casket. Hanley estimated about 2,000 have come to the chapel.

In Kalaupapa, Sister Frances Therese Souza hadn't had time yet to see if the settlement had heard the news, but doubted the dozen who had turned out for Damien's beatification ceremony would be able to make the trip to Rome.

"There was a big contingent for Damien, but they were a lot younger then," Sister Souza said. "We're dealing with 75 and older now, and Rome is not an easy place to navigate for people in wheelchairs."

While they're not sure how many of the order will attend the beatification, Sister Hanley and Sister Dillenschneider will head to Rome next month to receive the necessary protocol for the May event. Sister Dillenschneider said they are contacting co-horts in Honolulu to help plan the pilgrimage for people from Hawai'i.

The plans will not be lavish. Franciscans, who follow the example of St. Frances of Assisi, aren't spendthrifts.

"We'll do it in Franciscan and appropriate style," Sister Hanley said.

There's also the question of availability on such short notice: "We want to know exactly what we're required to do, after that, we'll do things on our own," Sister Hanley said. "Our sisters are so competent, with so many talents as we see in Hawai'i, but we can't make room."

Others scheduled to be beatified on May 15 are: seven priests killed in Spain in 1936; two 19th century woman founders of religious orders in Europe; and a French priest killed in the Sahara Desert when desert tribes revolted against France in 1916.

Reach Mary Kaye Ritz at mritz@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8035.