From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sainthood: New York State of Soul

When Billy Joel wrote "New York State of Mind," he mentioned the Hudson River, Chinatown and Riverside.  What he neglected to mention – what most New York enthusiasts neglect to mention – is that many canonized saints (and perhaps many more non-canonized ones) are New York born, bred and/or adopted.

According to Lawrence Downes of The New York Times Sunday Review Opinion Pages, seven out of the 12 (as of October 21, 2012) canonized American saints are New Yorkers ("either native-born or with
some other strong connection to the state").  These seven include three Jesuit missionaries from the 1640s (Isaac Jogues, Jean de la Lande and Rene Goupil), Sisters of Charity founder Elizabeth Ann Seton (born in 1774), and 1890s Italian immigrant "angel" Frances Cabrini.  The final two of this saintly seven (i.e., Kateri Tekakwitha and Marianne Cope) will be canonized shortly. 

Wikipedia explains that Kateri Tekakwitha is "the first Native American woman to be venerated in the Roman Catholic Church."  She was born circa 1656 near present-day Auriesville, New York.  The daughter of a Mohawk chief and a Roman Catholic Algonquin mother (who had "been baptized and educated by French missionaries"), Kateri was scarred and partially blinded by smallpox at a very young age.  After both of her parents died from this same disease, Kateri was adopted by "her maternal uncle, a chief of the Turtle Clan."

This uncle did not share his sister's or niece's fondness for the Catholic faith.  In fact, he and many other Turtle Clan members were very much against Kateri's conversion.  She was even accused of "sorcery and sexual promiscuity."  Nevertheless, Kateri was steadfast in her Catholic faith.  Father Pierre Cholonec, a French Jesuit who wrote an account of her life, quoted Kateri as saying:  I have deliberated enough…  I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary.  I have chosen him for husband and He alone will take me for wife. 

When Maria Anna Barbara Koob (later Marianne Cope) was just an infant, her family moved from Germany to Utica, New York.  Cope attended school there at the Parish of Saint Joseph.  As soon as she was able, Cope left home to pursue a religious calling through the Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York.  After receiving the religious habit, Cope became a school administrator - then afterwards a hospital administrator for "Saint Josephs… the first public hospital in Syracuse."  While in that
latter role, she was also involved with moving the Geneva Medical School to Syracuse.

Wikipedia reports that  Marianne Cope responded enthusiastically to an 1883 plea that few others dared to.  This urgent request came from King Kalakaua of Hawaii, who desperately needed help in caring for his islands' leper population.  Although "more than 50 religious institutes had already declined his request for Sisters to do this," Mother Marianne (a Superior General by then) sent the king this written reply:  am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen Ones, whose privilege it will
be, to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of souls of the poor islanders… 


Copyright October 15, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 


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