AN ANGEL IN OUR MIDST: ST. MARIANNE COPE
SETTING: the leprosy compound for girls at Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii
“Although St. Marianne Cope has nothing to do with Mexico, she is a saint that is fascinating to know about! That is why there is a play about her here. Grab your friends, make some puppets and have fun learning about our newest American saint!”
Mother Marianne Cope, Father Damien de Veuster, Adele (10 years old) and Edwina (7 years old) who are both leprosy patients, Mrs. Toguchi, representative of His Royal Highness, King Kalakaua
(A loud knock at the door; an unseen messenger hands Adele a note; she takes it and starts reading )
ADELE: A message for me? From Sister Marianne? It’s marked URGENT! I wonder what it could be? (she opens the note and reads it aloud): “ADELE: PLEASE COME AT ONCE TO MY OFFICE.” Hmm—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 little girl here who has just arrived from Honolulu and she’s crying her eyes out! She doesn’t want to be here. Not at all. 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 turquoise dress that Sister Leopoldina and I made for her. But not even that helped!
ADELE: Where is she? I want to see her right away!
MOTHER MARIANNE: I’ll call her… Edwina, could you come over here, please? (Edwina comes onstage, crying her heart out) Edwina, I want you to meet Adele. She’s going to be your 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 up to Edwina and hugging her —Edwina is still crying) Welcome, Edwina! You look like a picture in your new dress! What’s your favourite colour, by the way?
EDWINA: (whispering) Turquoise.
ADELE: I thought so! I love turquoise too but my very favourite colour is yellow. Do you see my dress that I’m wearing? Sister Marianne made this for me because she knows that yellow is my colour! We are lucky because Mother Marianne is a fashion designer! She makes only the latest styles for us!
MOTHER MARIANNE: Adele, you’re going to give me a swelled head! (laughing)
ADELE: It’s true! Even the boys get new outfits!
MOTHER MARIANNE: (laughing) Adele, why don’t you take Edwina over to the kitchen? I hear that Mother Renata has a most interesting treat 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 skip over to the kitchen)—(Adele finds a gingerbread cookie on the counter with Edwina’s name on the gift tag)—Oh, look what Mother Renata baked for you—a gingerbread girl! (she hands it to Edwina) Edwina, it’s wearing a turquoise dress!
EDWINA: Just like me! (she starts smiling and takes a nibble)
ADELE: And, Edwina! Look at its hair!
EDWINA: It’s got curly hair too! Just like me. Lots and lots of curly hair! Piles of it.
ADELE: And look at the turquoise bow in its hair!
EDWINA: Just like me! The same!
ADELE: Edwina, do you know who I think this gingerbread girl is??
EDWINA: It’s me ! It’s me ! (she starts giggling)
(The two girls trot over to the office to show Mother Marianne the treat)
MOTHER MARIANNE: (laughing) That gingerbread girl looks just like you, Edwina!
EDWINA: (no longer crying) I think it is me! (all three of them start laughing)
ADELE: Edwina, you are in for lots of surprises here! Good surprises! 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: (looking 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 and show her the hibiscus garden you planted too.
ADELE: Sure, Mother, we’re on our way! (they race over to their cottage and go inside)
EDWINA: What a pretty room!
ADELE: Yes, and it’s newly painted too—just for you Edwina, because we knew you were coming.
EDWINA: And it’s so clean!
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 colourful toy on the bed) What’s that?
ADELE: Oh, that’s what I wanted to show you! Last month I had a terrible cold. I felt so miserable! Well, to cheer me up, Mother Marianne made me this tiny bear. She hid it under my pillow and there it was! And ever since I’ve taken it to bed with me every single night.
EDWINA: It’s so small. 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 look on the wall chart over there—(pointing) you can sign up for sports or choir or art lessons or music lessons if you want to. But first, before we go to dinner, I think you should look under your pillow.
EDWINA: Oh, okay. (hesitantly) But why?
ADELE: (being mysterious)—Oh, you’ll see!
EDWINA: (lifting up her 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 and Adele are busy decorating the hall for the gala celebration: Father Damien is coming to visit; later they will have a party for him. The sisters in the kitchen have been busy baking cakes and cookies and candies and tarts. The girls are hanging banners on the walls (which the children have made) to welcome their favourite guest. The boys from Father Damien’s settlement have been invited too.)
EDWINA: Who is Father Damien anyway? I’ve heard so much about him!
ADELE: Well, he came all the way from Europe— from Belgium— to help us. Because, you see, the government passed a law insisting that all people with leprosy had to come and live here. But there was nobody willing to help them. Conditions were horrible in the beginning. But Father Damien came! He was the first. And everything began to change for the better. He came here in 1873.
EDWINA: What did he do?
ADELE: He built cottages and a church and a hospital and a water system. And he said Mass every day and brought the Sacraments. He brought medical care too, of course, and he even organized picnics and sports and musical events. And he had a motto: He always said, “God first, the lepers second and everybody else, a distant third.”
EDWINA: But why didn’t many others come to help too?
ADELE: Because they were so afraid of catching leprosy!
EDWINA: But wasn’t Father Damien afraid of catching leprosy?
ADELE: Well, no, he wasn’t. He was so happy to come here to help the patients. He knew that that was what God was calling him to do. But he did get leprosy! He has it now. He’s just like us, Edwina. You’ll soon see—he’s always smiling when he’s with us!
EDWINA: Everybody says he’s a saint! I want to meet him!
ADELE: You will meet him very soon. He is so happy now that Sr. Marianne and the Sisters have come all the way from faraway, Syracuse, New York , to be with us. Now, they can continue the work that he started here. But (looking at her watch) we have to run! We don’t want to be late for Father Damien’s Mass. (they both leave for the Mass)
Setting: The dining hall
(The children’s choir have just finished their recital)
FR. DAMIEN: (clapping loudly) Thank you, children! What a wonderful performance!
MOTHER MARIANNE: Father, the choir has been practising for weeks! Can’t you tell?
FR. DAMIEN: It sounds to me like they’ve been practising for years! (everyone laughs)
MOTHER MARIANNE: Father Damien, we have a thank-you card for you that the children made. Adele, could you please come up and give Father the card?
ADELE: (comes forth with the card) Father Damien, here’s what it says: “Thank you Father Damien for how much you have loved us! We love you lots and lots! From all your best friends at Kalaupapa.” (she gives him a big hug).
FR. DAMIEN: Thank you, Adele, and all of the children here. I’ve never had such a big card in my whole life! And I love you too! Even more than you love me! (laughing and clapping 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). Fr. Damien, Mother Renata and I made you a treat to say “thank you” and to show you how much we love you!
FR. DAMIEN: Oh! What I always wanted—a gingerbread man! I never had one of those before.
ADELE: Look!—It’s wearing glasses!
FR. DAMIEN: Just like mine!
EDWINA: And look at the hat!
FR. DAMIEN: Just like mine!
ADELE: Father, do you know who this gingerbread man is?
FR. DAMIEN: (teasing) Could it possibly, just possibly be me ?? (laughing out loud)
CHORUS: It’s Father Damien! It’s Father Damien! It’s Father Damien! (much laughter from Father Damien and Mother Marianne)
EDWINA: Everybody, listen, Father Damien has something to say!
FR. 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!
FR. DAMIEN: I have a gift too. For Mother Marianne: To say “thank you” to her (he’s hiding the gift behind his back). Did you know, children, that Mother Marianne ran an entire hospital before she came here? A huge hospital! She was in charge of the whole thing. It was one of the first hospitals in the state of New York. So—she knows a thing or two about hospitals! Thank you, Mother Marianne, for coming to Hawaii with your Sisters to be with us. I want to present you with this gift!
MOTHER MARIANNE: (she opens the gift). Oh! It’s a gingerbread lady! And she’s dressed in a black robe and a black veil and a white—Look , children! (she holds it up) Who is it? (laughing)
CHORUS: It’s you, it’s you, it’s you!
MOTHER MARIANNE: Thank you everybody! For my delicious gift! We also have another honoured guest with us today: Mrs. Toguchi, King Kalaupapa’s representative; she came all the way from Honolulu to be with us today. Let us all give her a resounding applause. (clapping)
MRS. TOGUCHI: Thank you everbody for making me feel so welcome! But I have to disagree with Father Damien. He’s wrong! (a gasp goes through the audience)… We don’t have just one angel in our midst. We have two of them. Who’s the second angel, girls and boys?
CHORUS: It’s Father Damien!
MRS. TOGUCHI: You are absolutely correct! And now I want to present these two angels with a plaque from His Royal Highness, King Kalakaua. (she places the medals over their heads). But to be honest, we have many more angels in our midst—all the Franciscan sisters who are here with Mother Marianne! (loud clapping from the audience)
FR. DAMIEN: (smiling and laughing) Children, this is the best day I’ve ever had!
EDWINA: Me, too! In fact, I like it so much I think I’ll just stay here!
CHORUS: HURRAH FOR EDWINA! HURRAH FOR EDWINA! (and the clapping continues)
(Edwina—who is smiling like a Cheshire cat—bows deeply and exits the stage)
Father Damien de Veuster was canonized in 2008
Mother Marianne Cope was canonized on Oct. 21, 2012