Remains of St. Marianne Lope return to Hawaii

A white hearse pulled up to the entrance of a Honolulu cathedral Thursday, carrying the remains of a saint famous for caring for leprosy patients in the 1880s there.

The box has the remains of St. Marianne Cope was carried into the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace for what was a funeral Mass and a homecoming ceremony for many.

She was 80 when she died of natural causes in 1918 on the remote Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Molokai in Hawaii, where leprosy patients were sent. Her remains were taken from Kalaupapa in 2005 and taken to Syracuse, New York, where her congregation was based.

Born Barbara Koob, she immigrated with her family to Utica, New York, from Germany when she was an infant. In 1883, the nun accepted the mission to care for leprosy patients in Hawaii.

She gained sainthood in 2012 after the Vatican authenticated the required two miracles that were as a result of her intercession.

Relocation from New York was necessary only because the buildings of the campus where her remains were once housed are no longer structurally sound, requiring the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities to move to another part of the city.

It makes sense to keep her remains in Honolulu. Kaluapapa can be accessed only via plane or mule, Bishop Larry Silva of the Honolulu diocese stated.

Hundreds of people packed into the cathedral, where they passed by the coffin and left gifts.

“The mortal remains of this frail creature of God…have an incredible spirit of their own, an aura that makes us want to be near them, to be changed by the very odor of holiness that emanates from them,” Silva said in the homily. “We want to touch the relics of this woman who dedicated herself to healing, so that we may be healed and may be healers.”

After Thursday’s Mass, the diocese officials planned to place the sealed metal box containing the bones of the saint upright in a glass cabinet in the main part of the cathedral. The display cabinet already contained her relic, which was a small box of bone fragments a nun brought to Honolulu bank in 2011, which was taken on a tour of the Hawaiian chain.

The diocese plans to build a new chapel at the cathedral where her remains will be entombed underground, according to a spokesperson at the church.