Friday, January 14, 2011

Hope for peace motivates Long Islanders to promote sainthood cause

Hope for peace motivates Long Islanders to promote sainthood cause

January 12, 2011 | Vol. 49, No. 37 | MARY IAPALUCCI

Erin von Uffel, left, and Lorraine Fusaro display photos of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey.

“In Mary’s House, Christians and Muslims pray side by side.”

When Lorraine Fusaro of Huntington heard these words from a friend shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, she found a source of hope. That’s why she joined her friend, Erin von Uffel, also of Huntington, in an effort to call attention to Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey; a French Daughter of Charity who found Mary’s house in Ephesus and established it as a pilgrimage site.

Later this month, Sister Marie’s cause for sainthood will be formally opened in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

“Mary is the Mother calling all God’s children home. Her home is common ground,” said Fusaro. “Sister Marie is a signpost, pointing the way.”

Sister Marie was born to a wealthy noble family in France in 1837. She joined the Daughters of Charity in 1858 serving as a nurse in France before going to Turkey in 1886 where she nursed and was superior of the house. During that time, she worked to find the house in Ephesus where the Blessed Mother is believed to have lived with St. John after Jesus’ death and resurrection. She acquired the site and established a shrine there. Today, “Meryem Ana Evi” (Mary’s House) is a pilgrimage site for millions of people every year, the majority of them Muslims, who revere Mary as the mother of Jesus, the great prophet.

Von Uffel, also of Huntington, first learned about Sister Marie while her family was living in London for her husband’s job. A conversation with a new acquaintance about her love for the saints led von Uffel to a meeting with a member of Sister Marie’s family, Baroness Rosario de Mandat-Grancey, who traveled with her to Mary’s House in Turkey.

The more she learned about Sister Marie, the harder it was for von Uffel to believe her cause for sainthood had never been opened. She learned that there had been attempts in the past, but wars in the area and a lack of funds had kept it from happening.

“My heart broke. Sister Marie had spent everything, used everything that came into her hands for God,” she said. She went to see her spiritual director. “I told him, I don’t understand why Sister Marie keeps tugging at me. How can I make it stop?”

His answer was not what she expected.

“He said, ‘I really believe she has a mission and is tugging at you to get prayers to accomplish her mission.’ He and I wrote a prayer on the spot.”

“The hard part for me was to hand it (the prayer) out and start talking about Sister Marie,” said von Uffel, but she realized there was “something very important here for the future, for the safety of my own children.” She has five sons, ranging from 16 to 24.

Fusaro, who has six children, ranging from 14 to 27, expressed similar motivation. “Every time I pray about what I’m doing, I look at my kids, and know I am helping to give them hope,” she said. “Terror has come to their shore. I don’t want them to live without hope.”

Both women’s husbands work in the financial industry and both families were directly affected by the terrorist attacks, losing friends and colleagues. “My husband works on Wall Street and for him, as for so many others it was a life-changing day,” said Fusaro. “He was on the street when the second tower was hit.”

“God sends us saints at particular times for particular reasons,” said von Uffel. “It is interesting to see the possibility of Sister Marie becoming an intercessor for us with the Muslims. She found the House of Mary in a Muslim country and gave us this holy shrine where people of all religions have visited and pray side by side.”

Working to spread the word about Sister Marie has found both women doing things they never imagined, such as setting up the Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey Foundation, running a website, filming a documentary, working on books and speaking about the life of Sister Marie.

“There is no dialogue at Mary’s House. You are not allowed to talk in there. The only dialogue is between the soul, whether it be Christian, Muslim or Jewish, to God through Mary. She’s taking all our prayers and she’ll do something with them.”

Fusaro has been assisting Vincentian Father Carl Shulte with a book about Sister Marie titled “A Guiding Star,” which is scheduled to be released this spring. Although she has not yet been formally recognized as such by the Church, Father Shulte said that he has no doubt that “Sister Marie is a saint. She was extremely holy, never sought anything for herself.”

Sister Marie was known for her persistence. After learning of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions of the life of the Blessed Mother recorded in a book by Clemens Brentano published in 1852, Sister Marie was convinced that Mary’s house was near where she was working in Turkey.

“She found out that people in Turkey went to Ephesus,” said von Uffel. “They talked about the great light that was seen there. The descendents of the people who had seen the light would go there on August 15 each year.”

Von Uffel has worked closely with the de Mandate-Grancey family and church leaders in Rome, Turkey and the United States. Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini, apostolic administrator of the apostolic vicariate of Anatolia, which includes Ephesus, requested the help of an American bishop to promote the cause of sainthood for Sister Marie since there are insufficient personnel and resources in Turkey.

Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph was asked to consider taking on the initiative and he agreed. A postulator has been appointed to oversee the sainthood process and prepare Sister Marie’s case for the Vatican. Von Uffel invites everyone to the formal opening of the cause on the feast of St. Agnes, January 21, at 6 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City.

To contact her or for more information on Sister Marie and the foundation, visit or call 631-385-7672.

Mary’s House in Ephesus, Turkey.


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