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THE SAINTS OF UPSTATE NY


Updated 10/18/2012 05:53 PM Posted By: Bill Carey
CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Two women with New York ties soon to be saints
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This weekend, the long road to sainthood will finally be realized for two women with roots in Upstate New York. Mother Marianne Cope and Kateri Tekakwitha will be canonized during a ceremony Sunday. Hundreds of Catholic faithful have traveled to Vatican City for the celebration and YNN's Bill Carey is there as well. He re-introduces us to the women soon-to-be known as saints.

VATICAN CITY -- Mother Marianne Cope came to the Utica area at the age of two in the mid 1800s, eventually traveling down the road to Syracuse to join the Sisters of St Francis. She helped found and establish two major hospitals: St. Elizabeth’s in Utica and St. Joseph’s in Syracuse.

Then, at the age of 40, she answered a call for help from the Hawaiian islands, battling an outbreak of Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy. She eventually assumed the work of another canonized saint, Father Damien, overseeing care for patients at Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai.

Sister Patricia Burkhard of the Sisters of St. Francis said, “She did what she thought was hers to do. Her compassion, I think, was one of the characteristics that makes it stand out. She had a desire to help the most outcast.”

New Yorkers are being joined by pilgrims from Hawaii, including some of those who had been exiled to Kalaupapa. They have been waiting years for this weekend.

“It’s a blessing. It’s a blessing and it’s a pleasure that we lived to see it,” said Kalaupapa patient Gloria Marks said.

The wait for sainthood for Mother Marianne has been a long one, but it doesn’t compare to the nearly 400 years that have passed since the death of another woman due to be canonized here at the Vatican this weekend, the first Native American Saint. We call her Kateri Tekakwitha.

The Haudenoshaunee, members of the six nation confederacy, call her Ga-da-lee. She was just four years old when small pox swept her Mohawk village near Fonda, New York, killing her mother and father and leaving her scarred and nearly blind. Yet she dedicated her life to care for others and embraced a new religion, Catholicism, despite pressure from other members of her nation.

Mohawk author Doug George-Kanentiio said, “You're looking for something to embrace that gives you stability. And, to her, she found the answers to these changes that were taking place among the Mohawks, within the Catholic: Faith.”

Proponents of both new Saints say this canonization will have an impact.

Friar Mark Steed said, “All children are looking for heroes. They saw in her a native hero. Now, in years past, looking for a native hero, especially in the Church, would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Because there weren't any.”

Bishop Robert Cunningham said, “The Church has its heroes. And we hold these people out as examples of what living their life in friendship with the Lord can do.”

Thousands are due to crowd this square on Sunday to honor these two very different women, who will share the title of Saint.


10/19/2012 02:11 PM Posted By: Bill Carey
CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Some American Catholics calling for change
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There will be a celebration at the Vatican this weekend as a group of new saints, including two Upstate New York women, are recognized in the Roman Catholic Church. But as Bill Carey reports, the canonization comes at a time when the church is facing a call from many American Catholics for new changes for the future, just as it moves closer to the past.

VATICAN CITY -- The story of the Catholic Church in America, in recent years, has not been a positive one. Everything from battles over sexual abuse by clergy, new Vatican reviews of the activities of Catholic colleges and Catholic nuns, and struggles over political issues like new health care legislation and requirements for contraceptive care coverage for women.

“We think the whole issue of religious freedom is very important and we feel that our right to practice our religion in our own institutions the way we feel it should be practiced are being compromised,” said Bishop Robert Cunningham, Syracuse Roman Catholic Diocese.

The disputes have led to loud protests by those claiming the Church has turned a deaf ear to the views of its people.

John Allen Jr., a long-time Vatican watcher for the National Catholic Reporter and CNN, says it’s all part of a struggle faced by the Church as it tries to maintain and grow its numbers.

“There's one constituency that says I won't join the Catholic Church because it's not liberal enough, and there's another that says, I won't join because it's too liberal. So, you know, how to appeal to all of that is a very difficult question,” said Allen Jr.

It may be ironic, but church leaders say many of their problems with American Catholics can be traced back to the last effort at major reform. That was the Vatican 2 Council, held in Rome 50 years ago.

Vatican 2, as it’s known, changed the look of the church. Everything from Mass in English to more participation of non-clergy in various ceremonies. But, a half century later, there are claims that the modernization may have led American Catholics to believe they had even more freedom, to pick and choose their beliefs.

“You know I think the Church has an obligation to just calmly state, ‘this is what we believe .’ This is what we teach.' And invite people along. We propose teachings. We invite people to accept them,” said Bishop Cunningham.

For those protesting from the left, there may be bad news ahead. The Pope has been conducting a meeting of Bishops and Cardinals called a Synod, calling for a new Evangelism, which will focus more on the Church's stands rather than congregational concerns.

“That we're going to stop talking about our internal problems. We’re going to stop talking about sex abuse crisis, we’re going to stop talking about women in the church and all of these things that we've been hung up on for the last fifty years and were going to get on with the business of trying to make disciples of the whole world,” said Allen Jr.

The Church now hopes its leaders can sell this new evangelism. But they likely face more protests from unhappy Catholics in America.


10/19/2012 02:37 PM Posted By: Bill Carey
CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Pilgrims coming to Rome hope to create new enthusiasm
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This weekend, two women from Upstate New York will be canonized. And while there are fewer priests and smaller congregations, the work of these women and the honor they will be given shines a positive light on the Catholic Church this weekend. YNN's Bill Carey is in Rome and caught up with a group from Upstate New York, seeking to share their experience when they return home, in an effort to keep the faith of those around them alive.

VATICAN CITY -- It is a busy week for pilgrims, coming to Rome to honor new saints. They have been spending time reconnecting with the very center of their Church: the Vatican.

“The Church has been alive and well here for 2,000 years. Suffered terrible persecutions, but produced not only martyrs but some missionaries. It's the church of the catacombs and cathedrals,” said Bishop Robert Cunningham, Syracuse Roman Catholic Diocese.

For those who have come before, and those making their first visit, it is a pilgrimage that has a deep impact.

“Coming here and seeing what the background was of the Church....it's good for people. They understand things better,” said Tina Dyer, from Fulton.

“This place is absolutely unbelievable. The Vatican and what it has to offer is something, it leaves you just speechless when you go in there,” said Joseph Slavik, of Syracuse.

There is a hope among Church leaders that events like this weekend's canonizations will help create new enthusiasm among the faithful, and that they will take that enthusiasm back home.

“I started thinking of some people who lost the faith or aren't as strong as they used to be and I might do a little work when I get home,” said Dyer.

The Church, seen by some to be struggling to remain relevant in the 21st century, sees hope in weeks like this -- hope for a new relevance in the future.


10/20/2012 01:22 PM Posted By: Bill Carey
CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Rome draws American pilgrims
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It is one of the oldest cities in the world, rich with culture and monuments to ancient civilizations. But, as our Bill Carey tells us, it's the more recent accomplishments of two upstate New York women that is drawing many American pilgrims to Rome this weekend.

ROME -- Every sunrise reveals why Rome is called an eternal city. It is a modern metropolis that is shoehorned into the ruins of an ancient empire. It is a place rich in history that laid the foundation for much of the Western World. But, this week, for a large group of pilgrims, the sites that have drawn millions of visitors over the years have paled in comparison to an event that will be taking place on Sunday.

The portraits of seven new saints now adorn Saint Peter's Basilica. Many of the Americans walking these streets are focused on two in particular. Sister Marianne Cope was the Syracuse nun who helped care for those suffering from leprosy on the forgotten peninsula of Kalaupapa.

Syracuse pilgrims have found themselves sharing time with groups from Hawaii, including many of the patients who still live in what was once a place of exile. The people of Hawaii consider Marianne their saint.

"She just became part of us. I think she spoke to all of us to come and see her become a saint," said Yvonne Pascua, Hawaiian pilgrim.

Another large contingent in Rome this weekend comes from places all over the country, where Native Americans call home. They have waited for years and decades for Kateri Tekakwitha, the young Indian girl from the Mohawk Valley to be named a saint. They have come for her canonization.

"Yes, yes. It's finally here. We've been praying for it a lot. So we're thankful," explained Cindy Giff, a Native American.

Dennis Coochyuma, another Native American, added, "Praying, praying every day that she will become a saint. Now it's happening, so a lot of people are here for that."

Catholic leaders who have accompanied various pilgrimage groups to the Vatican continue to say that this weekend could have profound impact on American catholics, and that it could bring new enthusiasm to their faith.

"This, being the year of faith, this is the way to help us all follow her example," said Bishop Larry Silva, Honolulu Roman Catholic Diocese.


10/20/2012 04:45 PM Posted By: Bill Carey
CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Prayer service brings pilgrims together
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The canonization ceremony for two upstate saints is drawing near. Our Bill Carey is at the Vatican this week for the special mass. He tells us how soon-to-be Saint Marianne is bringing people together this weekend.

VATICAN CITY -- They are thousands of miles from home, traveling in separate groups. Yet they found themselves coming together in a working class neighborhood near Vatican City. The pilgrims gathered at St. Gregory's Church in Rome. It is one of the Pope's churches in the city, and they held a ceremony known as vespers, which is a prayer service.

It is a ceremony filled with praise for Mother Marianne Cope, who is now called Saint Marianne.

"As the sun is setting, our next day is beginning. And so, what we're saying is, this is the opportunity for prayer before the canonization itself. It is to take all the hustle and bustle that's all of a sudden quieted around us and make this an important moment, because we're here to be sanctified," explained Father John Donovan, Syracuse Roman Catholic Diocese.

It has been a non-stop trip for these groups, touring holy sites, visiting ancient ruins. In this church, though, they focused on the life of Marianne Cope, and her work in Hawaii, as well as her ties to Central New York.

"Walked our streets. Set up hospitals, and just king to every person that she interacted with. So, I think she's just a model for all of us," said Helen Scanlon, Syracuse resident.

The service included a reading, quoting a letter that she had written to a nephew. It expressed gratefulness for the path she followed in life. She ended the letter saying she did not expect a high place in heaven. "I will be thankful for a little corner," said Cope in the letter. On Sunday, Pope Benedict will declare that her wish was granted.


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