By Sister Barbara Jean Wajda

When St. Marianne Cope served the people of the Sandwich/Hawaiian Islands, she was affectionately known as Mother Marianne, a name still used today by the remaining patients and Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.  Mother Marianne’s multiple virtues can all be summed up in one phrase — unconditional love of God and neighbor. The unconditional part is reflected in the particular virtue of inclusion, something sorely needed today as there are so many rifts in relationships at every level.

Simply put, Mother did not push people away nor did she build fences to keep people out. She welcomed, listened to, invited, supported, interacted with and served anyone in need. Her inner eye picked up the subtlety of a person’s need. From her spiritual and character treasury, Mother withdrew the gifts of graciousness so that she could meet those needs without diminishing the integrity and dignity of the individual she served. Even in dealing with troublesome or serious situations, she took care not to fracture the personal self-respect and self-esteem of the other, even if it meant subjecting herself to criticism or diminishment in the eyes of others. She did the right thing without concern about the personal cost to herself. She empowered others but preferred to remain in the background, unnoticed.

In light of all the dissent, protests, frustration and uneasiness that grips our world, I couldn’t help but wonder if unconditional love expressed as respectful inclusion could be a healing antidote to the rage and anger pouring out of so many. Mother Marianne…St. Marianne Cope, intercede for us as we try to become sensitive to the needs of others in these times of upheaval. Help us to empower those who are most vulnerable and have had their voices muffled in the face of power. Give us the insights we need to perceive all as our brothers and sisters, and include them in our circle of love.