Damien and Mother Marianne Cope – April 9, 2014

Perhaps it is appropriate that as we enter Holy Week we remember two witnesses of faith and sacrifice, Damien and Mother Marianne Cope. They worked among the lepers on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai in the late 19th century. Leprosy was so feared that people sent to the colony at Molokai were forced to jump off the ships that carried them and make their way ashore. The crews did not want to get too close. Doctors sent to the island made sure never to touch the lepers. They made their observations at a distance and left medicines on tables, rather than put the medicine in the leper’s hand. The colony’s dreary, desperate mood changed when Damien arrived in 1873. He organized burial details and heldfuneral services. He formed a choir and, with the help of those on the colony, built a new chapel. Working closely with the lepers came with a cost. Damien contracted leprosy in 1885. Three years later, his health failing, he received help from Mother Marianne, a Roman Catholic nun, who joined him on the island. Together they carried on the ministry of Jesus Christ among the sick and the outcast. Damien died in 1889. Mother Marianne continued her work on the island until her death in1918.

Here is a prayer for these two exemplars of Christ’s compassion, whose feast day is celebrated on April 15. God of compassion, we bless your Name for the ministries of Damien and Marianne, who ministered to the lepers abandoned on Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. Help us, following their examples, to be bold and loving in confronting the incurable plagues of our time that your people may live in health and hope; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

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