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Plans for Saint Marianne Cope Museum and Shrine unveiled

Ellen Abbott/WRVO
Sister Roberta Smith of The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities and St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center during a digital groundbreaking of the Saint Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum that’s being built near St. Joseph’s Hospital. ";s:3:

Plans have been finalized for the new Saint Marianne Cope Museum and Shrine in Syracuse. This week, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities used Cope’s birthday for a digital groundbreaking, where a prototype of the center was unveiled.

Often museum’s display artifacts. But Franciscans like St. Marianne didn’t have a lot of stuff that can be put  in a display case. So Sally Johnson, of Buffalo-based Hadley Exhibits which is helping put together the shrine and museum, had to look at St. Marianne’s artifacts in a different way.
"Hers are her stories and how she met the needs of these people. So we’re telling the big picture and then we’re bringing the faces forward at the end. because she really worked at meeting the needs of the individual. Here they were isolated, and we want people to look in the eyes of people, and hopefully that will inspire people to go out and do what she did.”

Johnson says she feels like St. Marianne has been inspiring her as she designs the museum. The writings and pictures of St. Marianne in Syracuse and Hawaii will make up much of the display. The exhibits will follow Cope’s life as a German immigrant in Utica, to her experience as a Franciscan sister, that led her to become a nurse, and administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, and a minister to lepers on an isolated island in Hawaii.

The museum will be housed in a former radiotherapy building on Townsend Street near St. Joseph’s Hospital, and a stained-glass window from a Franciscan Church will greet visitors

Officials at St. Joe's say it’s only fitting that shrine is next to the hospital that Cope helped found. Hospital administrator Kathryn Ruscitto says there is still a tunnel from the hospital to the building, and she hopes the shrine can become a haven for visitors who may need some quiet time.

"When families are in crisis, sometimes having that opportunity to take time away is very important.  We have a chapel and we have family waiting rooms, but this adds to that experience,” said Ruscitto.

The museum and shrine is expected to open in about six months.

Sister Roberta Smith of the Sisters Of Saint Francis of the Neumann Communities, hopes it embodies the message of St. Marianne.

“What is goodness within you calling you forth to do for your neighbor;  or your brother and sisters who may need some compassion or some hope. I think that would be the main message,because she reached out for those in need. And I would hope that people who reflected on her life would go out and do likewise,” said Smith.

Cope, who was canonized just over a year ago, was a Franciscan nun in Syracuse, where she helped found St. Joe’s hospital, before traveling to Hawaii to minister to lepers.  


Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.