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Saints of the Trinity Dome: Part VI

The Trinity Dome features a litany of saints who are associated with the United States and the National Shrine. From Mother Teresa to St. John Paul II, these heroes of the faith inspire us to pursue the path of holiness. In this sixth installment of our Saints of the Trinity Dome series, we invite you to learn more about St. Damien of Molokai, St. Marianne Cope, and St. John Neumann.

This post is Part VI in a series – read Part IPart II, Part IIIPart IV, and Part V.  

St. Damien of Molokai (Jozef Damien De Veuster)

St. Damien of Molokai depicted in the Trinity Dome

St. Damien of Molokai (Jozef Damien De Veuster) was born in Tremelo, Belgium, on January 3, 1840. At age 23, young Damien set sail for the Hawaiian Islands eager to share the Gospel and arrived over a year and a half later. During his time there, an influx of British and American merchants brought new difficulties to the native Hawaiians, including European diseases which slashed the population from 300,000 to about 50,000. When an epidemic of leprosy broke out, government leaders on the island sent the infected to live in quarantine on the island of Molokai, using armed officers to forcibly remove those who would not cooperate. Heartbroken by how the tragedy had ripped families apart, Damien decided to go to Molokai to care for the lepers, understanding that he could never come back.

When Damien arrived in 1873, there were 800 lepers on the island and lawlessness was rampant. Damien brought order to the chaos, providing critical infrastructure and spiritual encouragement. He arranged funeral ceremonies and burials, encouraged the islanders to grow their own gardens for healthy nutrition, and built huts and a church. Damien even engineered his own irrigation system for the island. Unlike the doctors, who weren’t brave enough to come into contact with the afflicted, Damien cared for the sick until he succumbed to the disease himself in 1889. Today, St. Damien’s selflessness and compassion for others continue to serve as an inspiration to the faithful around the world.

St. Marianne Cope

St. Marianne Cope depicted in the Trinity Dome

Though Barbara Koob was born in West Germany on January 23, 1838, her family moved to the United States and settled in Utica, New York less than a year later. When Barbara was about 13, her father fell ill, so she began working in a factory to helped provide for her parents and nine siblings. It wasn’t until she was 24 that she finally realized her dream of pursuing religious life, and became a member of the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse, where she was given the name Marianne Cope. For a few years, Marianne served as an elementary school teacher and principal before taking on a position that would drastically change her life. Working as an administrator on the governing boards of the Franciscan Sisters, Marianne used her new position and skills to help establish two of the first hospitals in central New York. Recognizing Marianne’s profound organizational abilities, a Catholic priest requested she come to the Hawaiian Islands to help provide education and healthcare to the leper community.

Marianne readily accepted and travelled to Honolulu in 1883. There, she served as manager of the Kaka’ako Branch Hospital on Oahu, working with the Sisters to improve patient treatment and living conditions, and expanding the hospital’s care to include the family members of lepers, who often had difficulty finding doctors to treat them. Marianne also cared for Damien De Veuster following his diagnosis with leprosy in 1886. When the government quarantined all the lepers on the island of Molokai in 1887, Marianne chose to dedicate her life to caring for them, overseeing the operations of the two children’s homes. The work was alienating, exhausting, and oftentimes more than the small team could handle. Nevertheless, they continued dedicating their life to the people of the island. She continued to minister in Hawaii until her death on August 9, 1918.

St. John Neumann

St. John Neumann depicted in the Trinity Dome

Did you know that St. John Nepomucene Neumann was the first American man to be canonized? The patron of immigrants and sick children, Saint John Neumann’s zeal for ministry serves as an inspiration to the faithful today.

From an early age, John Nepomucene Neumann had a keen sense of a higher calling to the priesthood. This motivated him to be a diligent student, enrolling at a diocesan seminary and later at a university in Prague to study theology. However, at the conclusion of his studies, John found himself faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle: Bohemia already had plenty of priests, and none of the dioceses in his native land would ordain him. Seeking an alternative, he applied to dioceses in the United States, but received no response. Yet John was not easily deterred; taking a leap of faith, he sailed across the ocean with only $40 in his pocket, arriving in New York City in 1836. Only a month later, he was ordained and spent four years working with German immigrants in Buffalo, New York. Though John felt the work was meaningful, he found his life to be lonely and difficult. Longing for a greater spiritual community, he joined a Redemptorist order and continued his ministry up and down the East Coast.

John’s hard work was recognized in 1852, when he was appointed bishop of Philadelphia. In this beautiful American city, he dedicated himself to the oversight of building schools, churches, and a cathedral. He was particularly committed to offering educational opportunities to immigrant children. The American hierarchy approved two catechisms written by John in 1852, and in the years that followed, the works became standard texts. Whether he was founding churches and schools, or writing his catechisms or articles in newspapers, John left an indelible mark on the lives of thousands of Americans. He passed away in 1860 after suffering from a stroke in Philadelphia and was canonized in 1977.


Butler’s Lives of the Saints, ed. Bernard Bangley

Biography of Marianne Cope, the Vatican.

Rohling, Geraldine M., PhD, MAEd. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Guide and Tour BookWashington, D.C.: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 2018.

The Way of Saints, Tom Cowan

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