AN ANGEL IN OUR MIDST: a play about St. Marianne Cope
This is a play about St. Marianne Cope and her work with the leprous children in Molokai, Hawaii. You will also get to meet Father Damien in this play! Two wonderful saints in our midst!
AN ANGEL IN OUR MIDST
SETTING: the leprosy compound for girls at Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii
CHARACTERS: Mother Marianne Cope, Father Damien de Veuster, Adele, age 10, and Edwina, Age 7 (both girls are leprosy patients), Mrs. Toguchi, representative of his Royal Highness, King Kalakaua
There is a loud knock at the door; an unseen messenger hands Adele a note; she takes it and says to the messenger (who is offstage)
ADELE: A message for me? From Sister Marianne? It’s marked URGENT. I wonder what it could be? (she opens the note and begins to read it aloud) “ADELE, PLEASE COME AT ONCE TO MY OFFICE!” Hmmm—what could this be about? (Curious, she zips out the door and races over to the office)
MOTHER MARIANNE: Hello, Adele! We need you! We have a new girl here who has just arrived from Honolulu and she’s crying her eyes out. She doesn’t want to be here. Not one bit. Her name is Edwina and you’re just the cheery type that we need to make her feel welcome. Would you like to be our ambassador for the day?
ADELE: You know I would!
MOTHER MARIANNE: Good! She’s already dressed in the new dress that Sister Leopoldina and I made for her. But not even that helped.
ADELE: Oh, no! Where is she? I want to meet her right away!
MOTHER MARIANNE: ( opening the door) I’ll call her—EDWINA, COULD YOU COME OVER HERE, PLEASE ? (Edwina comes onstage, crying her eyes out) Edwina, I want you to meet Adele. She’s going to be your special friend here. Think of her as your big sister. Adele will show you all around. She has been here for 3 years and she knows where everything is.
ADELE: (running over to Edwina and hugs her) Welcome, Edwina! You look like a picture in your new dress! What’s your favourite colour, by the way?
EDWINA: (whispering) Pink.
ADELE: Now, why does that not surprise me? I love pink too but my very favourite colour is yellow. Do you see the dress that I’m wearing? Sister Marianne made this for me because she knows that yellow is my favourite colour. We’re lucky because Mother Marianne is not only a nun, she’s a fashion designer too. She even reads fashion magazines to get the latest styles for us. No hand-me-downs for us. The sisters here want us to look beautiful at all times! And we do!
SISTER MARIANNE: Adele, you’re going to embarrass me! (laughing)
ADELE: It’s true! Even the boys get new outfits.
SISTER MARIANNE: Well, yes they do indeed. Adele, why don’t you take Edwina over to the kitchen? I hear that Sister Renata has a most interesting surprise for her. Edwina, do you like surprises?
EDWINA: (nodding her head, whispering) Yes.
ADELE: Do you especially like surprises that you can eat? Those are my favourite kinds of surprises!
EDWINA: (who has stopped crying and is even smiling a bit) They’re mine too!
ADELE: Let’s go then! (the two girls join hands and race over to the kitchen. Adele finds Edwina’s gift on the counter) Oh, look what Sister Renata has baked for you! A gingerbread girl! And on the gift tag it says FOR EDWINA. Edwina, look, she’s wearing a pink dress! (she hands it to Edwina)
EDWINA: Just like me! (she starts smiling and takes a nibble)
ADELE: And look at her hair!
EDWINA: She’s got lots of long hair too. Piles of it. Just like me!
ADELE: And look at the green bow!
EDWINA: Just like me!
ADELE: Edwina, do you know who I think this gingerbread girl is?
EDWINA: It’s me! It’s me! (in a happy and surprised voice)
(The two girls trot over to the office to show Mother Marianne the treat)
MOTHER MARIANNE: Why that gingerbread girl looks just like you, Edwina!
EDWINA: (no longer crying) I think it is me! (they all start laughing)
ADELE: Edwina, you are in for lots of surprises here—all of them good! Keeping us safe. Keeping us happy. That’s what matters most to Mother Marianne and the other sisters. They look after us. And they even make little gifts for us too!
EDWINA: (sounding intensely interested) They do? What kind of little gifts?
ADELE: Come and I’ll show you. (the girls start to leave)
MOTHER MARIANNE: Adele, you and Edwina will be room-mates. You can show her your room and be sure to show her the hibiscus garden you planted too.
ADELE: Sure, Mother, we’re on our way! (they skip over to the cottage and go inside).
EDWINA: What a beautiful room! This is nicer than my room at home!
ADELE: And it’s newly painted too—just for you, Edwina, because we knew you were coming. Before Mother Marianne and the sisters came, the cottages looked awful. They were really shabby, peeling paint and all! But now, as you can see, they’re all painted pastel colours, peach and aqua and lemon yellow! Even lilac. Thanks to Mother Marianne!
EDWINA: Yes, I noticed. And everything is so clean it almost sparkles!
ADELE: Oh, yes! Clean. Very clean. Everything gleams around here. Do you know the expression, “cleanliness is next to godliness”?
EDWINA: I’ve heard it before.
ADELE: Well, I think Mother Marianne invented it! (they both start laughing)
EDWINA: (pointing to a small toy on the bed) What’s that?
ADELE: Oh, that’s what I wanted to show you. Last month I had a bad cold. I felt so miserable! Well, Mother Marianne showed up at my door with this—to cheer me up! It’s a miniature bear. She made it just for me. And I take it to bed with me every single night.
EDWINA: It’s so tiny. I’ve never seen a bear this size before. Can I hold it?
ADELE: Sure you can. Here it is (she hands over the bear). And can you see the wall chart over there? (pointing) You can sign up for your favourite sports, or choir, or art lessons. You can even take music lessons if you want to. But first, we have to go to dinner. By the way, the sisters make the most delicious food for us! Tonight we’re having fried chicken with mashed potatoes. Sister Marianne introduced us to it. She brought the recipe all the way from her home in Syracuse, New York, and it’s everybody’s favourite! Do you like it?
EDWINA: Well, I never had it before.
ADELE: You can give me your opinion tonight.
EDWINA: Oh, okay. I think I‘ll probably like it, though.
ADELE: Before we go, I think you should look under your pillow.
EDWINA: But why?
ADELE: (in a mysterious voice) You’ll see!
EDWINA: (lifting the pillow) A miniature bear! Just like yours!
EDWINA: (hugging the bear) I think I’m going to like it here, Adele.
ADELE: (giving Edwina a big hug) I know you will, Edwina!
(the two girls scamper off to the dining hall)
ACT TWO (one month later)
Setting: the dining hall
Edwina, Adele, and the other girls are busy decorating the hall for a gala celebration: Father Damien is coming to visit and the sisters are planning a party for him. They have been busy in the kitchen for days baking pineapple cakes and coconut tarts and shortbread cookies. The girls are hanging banners on the wall which they made in Art class. The boys from Father Damien’s settlement have been invited and Mrs. Toguchi, a representative of his Royal Highness, King Kalakaua, is coming to present a special tribute to Sister Marianne and Father Damien.
EDWINA: Who is Father Damien, anyway? I’ve heard so much about him!
ADELE: Well, he’s really well known here in Hawaii, everybody has heard of him here. And I hear he’s starting to get known in the world, even! There are even lots of newspaper articles being written about him.
EDWINA: He must be famous then!
ADELE: Oh, don’t let him hear you say that! He wouldn’t ever want to be known as famous! He’s the most humble person you could ever wish to find! I’ll tell you a little about him: He came all the way from Europe, from Belgium, to help us. Because, you see, the government here passed a law in 1866 insisting that all people with leprosy had to come and live here, far away from everybody else. But there was nothing here for the poor people! Conditions were terrible when Father Damien came. But then, everything began to change for the better, thanks to him.
EDWINA: How long ago did he come?
ADELE: He came in 1873, almost 20 years ago.
EDWINA: What did he do once he got here?
ADELE: He built cottages and a church and a hospital and a water system. And he said Mass every day and brought the Sacraments to the sick. He brought medical care too, of course, and he even organized picnics and sports and musical concerts. And he started a choir too. He had a motto. Do you want to know what it was?
EDWINA: I sure do.
ADELE: He always said: “God first, the lepers second, and everybody else, a distant third.” They say that he built 300 cottages by himself! He was always seen with a hammer in his hand! He worked night and day for all of us here.
EDWINA: But why didn’t a whole lot of other people come to help him?
ADELE: Because they were afraid of catching leprosy!
EDWINA: But wasn’t Father Damien afraid of catching leprosy too?
ADELE: Well, if he was, he certainly didn’t show it. He was so happy to come and help the patients here! He knew that God was calling him to come here. He wanted to come. But Edwina, he did get leprosy! He has it now. He’s just like us now. You’ll soon see. And you’ll see, also, that he’s always smiling when he’s with us.
EDWINA: I’ve heard that people call him a saint.
ADELE: Yes, they do, but don’t dare tell him that! He’s so humble that he wouldn’t want anyone to say that!
EDWINA: I can’t wait to meet him.
ADELE: You will meet him very soon. He is so thrilled that Sister Marianne and the other sisters have come all the way from New York to be with us. Now the sisters can continue the work that he started here. Before Mother Marianne came there was no one to look after the girls. She and her sisters came about 6 years ago. But (looking at her watch) we have to run! We don’t want to be late for Father Damien’s Mass. (they leave the stage in a hurry)
Setting: the dining hall
Date: the same day, later in the afternoon
The children’s choir have just finished their recital.
FR. DAMIEN: (clapping loudly) Thank you, girls. What a splendid performance!
MOTHER MARIANNE: Father, the choir has been practising for weeks. Can’t you tell?
FR. DAMIEN: Just weeks? It sounds like they’ve been rehearsing for years! (everyone claps)
MOTHER MARIANNE: Father Damien, the children made a card for you. Adele, could you please come up and give Father the card?
ADELE: (comes forth with the card) Father Damien, I will read what it says: It says: THANK YOU, FATHER DAMIEN, FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE FOR US. WE LOVE YOU LOTS AND LOTS! FROM ALL YOUR BEST FRIENDS AT KALAUPAPA. And everyone of us in the school signed it.
FATHER DAMIEN: Thank you, Adele, and all of you children here today. I’ve never had such a big card in my whole life! And I love you too! In fact, even more than you love me! (much cheering from the audience).
MOTHER MARIANNE: And Father Damien, we have something else for you from the children. Edwina, will you please come up?
EDWINA: (comes up holding a particularly large gingerbread cookie) Father Damien, Mother Renata and I made you a treat to say “thank you “ and to show you how much we love you! She’s an expert at making gingerbread cookies! I know this from experience!
FATHER DAMIEN: Oh, just what I always wanted—a gingerbread man! I never had one of those before.
ADELE: Look!—it’s wearing glasses!
FATHER DAMIEN: Just like mine!
EDWINA: And—look at the hat!
FATHER DAMIEN: Just like mine!
ADELE: Father Damien, do you know who this gingerbread man is?
FATHER DAMIEN: (in a joking voice) Could it possibly, just possibly, be me? (laughing out loud)
CHORUS: It’s Father Damien! It’s Father Damien! (much laughter from Mother Marianne and Father Damien)
EDWINA: Everybody, listen! Father Damien has something to say!
FATHER DAMIEN: Yes, I do. Boys and girls, we have an angel in our midst: an angel who has a sense of humour. Who do you think that angel is?
CHORUS: It’s Mother Marianne! It’s Mother Marianne!
FATHER DAMIEN: Yes! And I have a gift for her too. To say “thank you, Mother Marianne!” (he’s hiding the gift behind his back). Did you know, children, that Mother Marianne was in charge of an entire hospital in the state of New York, before she came here? It was one of the first hospitals in the state. So—she knows a thing or two about hospitals! Thank you, Mother Marianne, for coming to Hawaii with all of your sisters to be with us. I want to present you with this gift!
MOTHER MARIANNE: (she opens the gift) Oh! Surprise! It’s a gingerbread lady! And she’s dressed in a black robe and a black veil and—look, children! (she holds it up) Who is it? (chuckling)
CHORUS: It’s Mother Marianne! It’s Mother Marianne!
MOTHER MARIANNE: Thank you, everyone, for my tasty gift! Today we have another honoured guest to be with us: Mrs. Toguchi, King Kalaupapa’s representative. She came all the way from Honolulu to be with us today. To bring us a message from the King. Let’s give her a resounding applause! (loud clapping and cheering)
MRS. TOGUCHI: (comes on stage) Thank you everybody for making me feel so welcome! But I have to disagree with Father Damien! He’s wrong! (a loud gasp goes through the audience) We don’t only have one angel in our midst, we have two angels in our midst! And who do you think the other one is, girls and boys?
CHORUS: It’s Father Damien, it’s Father Damien!
MRS. TOGUCHI: Yes, of course! And I want to present these two angels with the highest honours our government can bestow, from his Royal Highness, King Kalakuau, himself. (she places the medals over their heads)To thank you for your outstanding service to the most suffering people of Hawaii. You have given your lives for us, you have sacrificed your lives for us, and for that we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We can never thank you enough for all you have done for us.
FATHER DAMIEN: Thank you, Mrs. Toguchi! And let us not forget the other angels in our midst, all the other Franciscan sisters who came here with Mother Marianne! (much clapping and cheering). And I want to thank all the children here today for putting on this wonderful celebration! To tell you the truth, children, this is one of the best days I’ve ever had!
EDWINA: Me too! In fact, I like it here so much that I want to stay! And eat fried chicken and mashed potatoes every single day!
CHORUS: Hurrah for Edwina! Hurrah for Edwina!
(Edwina—who is smiling like a Cheshire cat— bows deeply and exits the stage)
Father Damien de Veuster died of leprosy in 1889 at the age of 49. He was canonized in 2009. The CATHOLIC ENCYLOPEDIA calls him ” the apostle of the lepers.”
Mother Marianne Cope was canonized in 2012. She died of natural causes at the age of 80 in Kalaupapa in 1918. True to her prophecy, neither she nor any of her sisters ever contracted leprosy during their time in Hawaii.