Catholic faithful from all over Maui flocked to Christ the King Church on Monday evening to pray, reflect and view the relic of Blessed Marianne Cope, the nun who succeeded St. Damien in caring for exiled Hansen's disease patients on Molokai in 1888.
"Mother Marianne means a lot to me," said Mary Rosenthal, a former Sister of Saint Francis, the same order as Cope.
Rosenthal, a secretary for Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina, said that viewing Cope's tiny bits of bone encased in glass in a gold reliquary was like meeting family.
"It was an awesome experience," the Lahaina resident said.
Nichole Romias was pleased to see the relic of a woman who helped many, like Father Damien, who was canonized as a saint on Oct. 11, 2009, in Rome.
Kihei resident Jenny Gutierrez pauses in prayer while visiting the relic of Blessed Marianne Cope on Monday evening at Christ the King Church. Gutierrez was one of dozens of residents who came to pray and venerate the relic. “It was very inspirational,” she said.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
"It's about what they did for the Hawaiian people, even more so I wanted to come," Romias said.
The 28-year-old Wailuku resident accompanied by her family, including her mother, Beverly, said she felt "very privileged to have the opportunity" to see Cope's relic.
Her father, George Romias, called the event "inspiring."
Cope's relic at Christ the King was surrounded by lei along with vases of flowers. A banner of her image as a young nun also was hung nearby with a lei draped on it. Some worshippers placed their hands on the reliquary, others made the sign of the cross. People were able to view the relic up close before Mass began.
The Monday stop at the Kahului church was the only public appearance on Maui in the statewide tour that continues through the end of this week. It ends on Oahu.
Over the weekend, the relic made stops on Molokai, including Kalaupapa where Cope died and was buried. It also stopped on Lanai.
The tour is the only time members of the public will be able to see the bone fragments because the relic later will be put into another reliquary, a small wooden box, said Sister Patricia Burkard, general minister of the Mother Marianne religious community, the Sisters of Saint Francis of the Neumann Communities.
"It is a very humbling experience and a great honor," Burkard explained of her caretaker role, several hours after arriving on Maui from Lanai for the Monday evening relic viewing.
Burkard was at Cope's exhumation at her Kalaupapa grave site in 2005, when the relics were taken.
Burkard also took Cope's remains back to the motherhouse chapel of her Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse, N.Y. The fragments were rechecked for their authenticity by a forensic anthropologist in Utica, N.Y., Blessed Marianne's hometown.
At that time, Burkard was taking back the remains of Mother Marianne Cope.
Now, "I'm bringing back the relic of Blessed Marianne Cope," Burkard said smiling.
Cope is following in St. Damien's footsteps and could become Hawaii's second saint. She took a step toward sainthood when Pope Benedict XVI beatified her on May 14, 2005.
The tour is being held now to mark the sixth anniversary of her beatification, Burkard said.
Blessed Marianne is one of five "Blesseds" in the United States. In 1993, Katherine Dehlia Mahoney recovered from multiple organ failure after prayers were said to Mother Marianne. To become a saint, the Vatican, must authenticate a second miracle.
That is in the works, Burkard said, although the status of its authentication at the Vatican remains unknown.
"We hope it will be soon," she said of Cope's canonization.
Mother Marianne arrived in Hawaii on Nov. 8, 1883, at the age of 45, with six other Franciscan sisters. She administered Honolulu's Kakaako Branch Hospital for leprosy patients, opened Kapiolani Home for the daughters of leprosy patients and founded Maui's first general hospital, Malulani.
Cope didn't want to come to Maui because she already had many other things to do, Burkard said, but she and her other sisters left a legacy of helping people and children on Maui when they developed other programs.
Mother Marianne went to the Kalaupapa settlement in 1888, five months before the death of Father Damien.
There, she and others also took care of the "well children" of leprosy patients, and Cope also planted trees and flowers on the "stark" island, Burkard said.
Cope became the spiritual and moral leader of the settlement.
"She was a true disciple of the gospel in her care and compassion and service for others," Burkard said. "I'd like to tell people she is an example for our lives."
There was a special service and processional in Kalaupapa on Saturday when the relic made its way back to where Cope tirelessly helped others.
"That was a wonderful day," Burkard said.
When Cope's relic arrives at its final resting place, it will be housed at Honolulu's Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu. The cathedral also houses a relic of St. Damien.
"They will be side by side again," Burkard said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.