In 1883 Sister Marianne Cope left New York with six sisters to minister to leprosy patients in Hawaii. She planned to remain only long enough to get them settled. But the patients’ great needs led her to remain in Hawaii for four decades; she would die there in 1918. Courageous, energetic and never daunted by any challenge, she is reported to have once said, “I am not afraid of any disease.”
In one of his treatises our own Cistercian father William of St. Thierry calls the monastery a menagerie, a zoo where wild beasts are sent to be tamed, and a great infirmary, where we monks have come to be healed. As we remember the holiness of Saint Marianne and her dedication to the lepers of Hawaii, perhaps we could also call the monastery a leper colony. We monks have come here because we realize we are covered with the disease of our sinfulness and our tendencies toward sin. We had to come away, for we are in desperate need of the healing grace and tender mercy that only Christ Jesus can give.