St. Marianne Cope Central to Ludden Grad’s Life Story

| February 4, 2014
Kate Mahoney stands with Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Thomas Costello.

Kate Mahoney stands with Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Thomas Costello.

BY DYANN NASHTON

I am not my story and my story is not who I am. The story of Saint Marianne Cope, Kate Mahoney said, is not only the saint’s story or the story of those who worked toward her sainthood. It is not just the story of those who happened to survive due to St. Marianne’s miraculous intercession. This story belongs to all of us. And that is precisely the story Kate Mahoney wants to share.

Mahoney is known for dodging death when she was a young teenager thanks to a miracle attributed to St. Marianne Cope. In the 19th Century when people feared disease and the infirm even more than they do today, St. Marianne, a Syracuse Franciscan sister, ministered to the sick, opened medical facilities and even cared for lepers in Hawaii. “She was ahead of her time,” said Mahoney. “Everything she did, she made sure it was open to everyone.”

It appears that included an average 20th Century teenager. In 1992, Mahoney was visiting relatives in Central New York with her parents. The family was between homes in Ireland and Virginia, but Mahoney’s diagnosis of malignant germ cell ovarian cancer transformed the visit into a permanent move. Deciding to stay in the Syracuse area to continue with their daughter’s existing medical team, her parents quickly enrolled her in Bishop Ludden Junior/Senior High School between chemotherapy treatments.

Mahoney had a stage four tumor. It was the size of a basketball and was pressing against her spine. She was one of only 1,000 other individuals with the disease at the time — and few were young people.

In a recent address to the Diocesan Panel at Bishop Grimes Junior/Senior High School, she said, “I arrived at Ludden for the first day of school and my hair was beginning to fall out … I had met maybe three or four people but had only one friend, and I have to use that title loosely because by the time friendships would have firmly established to start the year I was back in the hospital for chemo.”

She has no memory of the timeframe between November 1992 and February 1993. During that time, and due to the rigorous cancer treatment, Mahoney said that her “body had been ravaged by the cure.” She experienced multi-system organ failure and while in the intensive care unit at Crouse Hospital she reached a place where, for the average patient, there is no going back. By all accounts, death was inevitable.

“For years I never wanted to talk about the miracle. But now I’m so comfortable living in it that I want share it.”

—Kate Mahoney

A visit from Sister Mary Laurence Hanley on January 3, 1993, changed the course of Mahoney’s story forever. The Franciscan sister began praying to St. Marianne for intercession on behalf of the 14-year-old and placed a relic that belonged to St. Marianne near Mahoney’s organs. Prayers spread to Syracuse’s Franciscan residence, St. Marianne’s Utica hometown and the Bishop Ludden student body. Before long, Mahoney’s name was listed on a prayer chain that spanned countries and denominations.

“It was not a biblical recovery,” she described. “I did not wake up to throw away my crutches nor did I regain it sight unseen, but my organs did recover. They recovered to the lowest function but enough so that all the specialists could step back in and work with their capable hands.”

She says that after 47 days intubated in the ICU, she was released from the grasps of hallucinogenic and paralytic drugs to find that she couldn’t walk, lift her arms or produce sound with her voice. The long road to recovery had begun.

Today, Mahoney says she considers St. Marianne a personal friend. “For me, my journey with Mother Marianne isn’t about my illness at all. It’s about my life before, during and after. Because I believe she has always been with me. We have such trust in her that while we pray to her, we also talk to her, about everything.”

While that personal conversation continues, Mahoney has made it her ministry by telling her own story to encourage others to enlist in this kind of interaction. “The dialogue itself helps shape our world and relationships,” she said.

“For years I never wanted to talk about the miracle. But now I’m so comfortable living in it that I want share it,” she said. “It’s the message of listening to each other and really hearing what we all have to say.”

Mahoney admits that learning some decorum helped her find the right things to say. For a time, while St. Marianne’s beatification was pending, Mahoney used to say, “I don’t need anyone to tell me I was part of a miracle.” That nonchalance did not always go over well with traditionalists, she noted. Instead, she followed the lead of St. Marianne and learned better ways to share her message.

“Mother Marianne knew when to step in and when to step back. But, she was always moving forward,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney’s experience as a teenager colors her relationship with St. Marianne and the young people she hopes to reach out to in her own ministry.

At the Diocesan panel at Bishop Grimes, she concluded her presentation by saying, “In an age range when kids are figuring out who they are, we
do not have the right to tell them who they can and can’t be. We have an obligation to foster them as they grow into whoever it is they are going to become. We have a duty to Mother Marianne to let everyone who walks into our lives know that they matter and they are safe.”

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Category: Catholic Identity, Featured

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