Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Local Woman Never Doubted Relative Would Be Saint

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 5, 2012

Meg Burnett remembers sitting on the convent porch overlooking the garden and the tropical scene where her great-great-aunt lived and worked among those afflicted with leprosy.

Now, that great-great-aunt is to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church.

“It’s almost incredible that we have a saint among us,” said Burnett about Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai. “Not many people can say they are a direct descendant of a saint.”

A second miracle has been confirmed in the canonization cause for Blessed Marianne Cope, who is pictured in a colorized black and white photo circa 1883. CNS Photo/Courtesy of the Sisters of St. Francis

Blessed Marianne Cope, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, N.Y., served for many years caring for lepers on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. In 2005, she was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI, and now a second confirmed miracle has cleared the way for her to be canonized, likely this fall.

A second miracle has been confirmed in the canonization cause for Blessed Marianne Cope, who is pictured in a colorized black-and-white photo circa 1883. (CNS photo/courtesy Sisters of St. Francis)

Blessed Marianne, born Barbara Koob, followed a traditional immigrant path. Born in Germany, she was a toddler when her family immigrated to Utica, N.Y. After eighth grade, she took a job at a textile factory to support the family. She entered the religious congregation at 24 with the idea of serving as a teacher. But she spent most of her time in administrative work and later became a leader in the medical field, helping to establish the first Catholic hospital in Syracuse, known as St. Joseph Hospital, and serving as its administrator.

She spent the last 30 years of her life ministering on the Hawaiian island of Molokai to those with leprosy. She died on the island in 1918 at the age of 80.

The pope signed documents on Dec. 19 recognizing the miracles needed for her canonization and the canonization of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who will be the first Native American saint, along with the martyrdom of 64 victims of the Spanish Civil War. The pope also advanced the causes of 18 other men and women.

Two miracles have been credited to Blessed Marianne’s intervention. The first was the recovery of a young New York girl, dying in 1993 from multiple organ failure, after friends and family prayed to Blessed Marianne.

A 65-year-old New York woman healed of pancreatitis in 2005 was the second miracle that led the pope to proclaim Blessed Marianne Cope a saint.

The U.S. bishops in November approved adding an optional memorial for her to the liturgical calendar, but a date has not been set yet. It had been observed on Jan. 23, the day of her birth, in the dioceses of Syracuse and Honolulu.

Marietta resident Meg Burnett, the great-great niece of Blessed Marianne Cope, holds a replica of the six-foot tall statue of the late Sister of Saint Francis that was dedicated in 2009 at a public park in Hawaii. Photo By Michael Alexander

Burnett, 64, a Cathedral of Christ the King parishioner, has spent a dozen years working with others on the case. She’s traveled to Hawaii to participate in ceremonies, such as the dedication in a public park of a statue of Blessed Marianne, which is venerated by people touching the statue’s hand.

The Marietta resident said there is one other relative of Blessed Marianne who is involved in the canonization efforts and seven known descendants.

She treasures her relics of her relative. One is a cross from twigs found in the saint’s grave when the remains were exhumed. She also has bone fragments of the soon-to-be saint.

Her visit to the compound where Blessed Marianne served inspired Burnett to action in her community. Burnett said while sitting on the porch she heard “a voice say, ‘Why are you sitting there? Don’t you know there is work to be done?’”

With that message in her heart, Burnett looked around the Atlanta area to find a place where she could contribute. She ended up at Our Lady of Perpetual Hope Home, a place established by the Hawthorne Dominican religious order to serve the poor of Atlanta with terminal cancer.

“I decided that was the direction to go,” she said.

The link between Blessed Marianne’s work and Burnett’s volunteering is clear: Both comfort people approaching death.

“I had no doubt in my mind,” she said, about whether the church would recognize her relative as a saint. “To think I am a direct descendant of her is indescribable,” she said.