Missionary Saints – St. Marianne Cope

Two by Two, Saint by Saint 

“Children, Go Where I Send Thee” is a rousing hymn melodically interpreting an imagined dialogue among the Divine Persons. The command “children, go where I send thee” is followed by the question “how shall I send thee?” to which the reply is an increase in the number being sent: “I’m gonna send thee two by two”, three by three, four by four and so on.

The premise of the happy hymn text is based upon a scriptural insight that God sends us on mission with others. In the Gospels Jesus sends the disciples two by two (Mk 6:6-7, Lk 10:1). Working with others multiplies strengths, fosters fellowship, and perhaps most importantly provides an icon of our God who is three Divine persons in perfect loving communion so as to be One.

On January 23, the Church celebrates the missionary Saint Marianne Cope the collaborator of Saint Damien de Veuster who became known as Damien of Molokai. He was a Belgian priest. She was a German-American religious. Together they served a community of persons inflicted with Hansen’s disease confined to leper colonies in the Hawaiian territories in the late 1800’s.

Responding to the request from the Hawaiian government, in 1889 Saint Marianne left her Franciscan motherhouse in Syracuse, New York with six other sisters and set out for the remote pacific islands. Saint Damian had already established a home for men and boys and upon her arrival Saint Marianne took over administration of the home. She then built a hospital and school. Together they attended to the overwhelming suffering in body, mind, and soul of the children and adults on several islands. With a spirit of communion, Father Damian provided for the sacramental and spiritual needs and Sister Marianne provided for the health and educational needs. Different gifts. Same Spirit. Sounds familiar (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 12:5-11; Ephesians 4:4-11; Hebrews 2:4).

This type of saintly partnership was not unique to them. The collaboration of Saint Vincent de Paul with Saint Louise de Marillac and Saint Francis de Sales with Saint Jane de Chantal immediately come to mind. Perhaps this is not surprising because holy partners keep us accountable, provide good example, inspire and encourage, correct and redirect, pray and worship with us and in all these ways serve to lift us up on the ladder of Divine ascent. It is extremely difficult to lift oneself up when scaling a mountain. But a friend can reach out their hand and pull us from above.

Holy partners can enable us to know and to love God. How often do we enter into sacred conversations with our ministry collaborators? Do we share with them how God’s love is being revealed to us through worship, work, contemplation, and in our dear neighbor? Are we eager to cheer them on when they grow in holiness and help them return to the Way when they are lost or confused? Do we pray with them when they are weary and lighten their load when they are overburdened? Do we appreciate the profound responsibility we have when working with others in the Church to give authentic witness to the communion of love that is our Triune God?

So whether we are sent two by two, or four by four, let’s be sure to lift up our partners toward holiness. May Saint Marianne Cope intercede for us.