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2 New Yorkers among 7 new saints approved by pope Native American and nun destined for 2012 ceremony

Marianne Cope, a Franciscan nun from Central New York who ministered to leprosy patients in Hawaii for more than 30 years, has been proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XVI.

Cope and Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American born in the Mohawk Valley region of New York, were among seven new saints approved this week by the pope for canonization. The ceremonies will take place at the Vatican, likely in 2012.

Sister Patricia Burkard, a native of Western New York and longtime area resident, has been helping shepherd the cause for Cope's canonization over the past six years in her role as general minister for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.

"Now, we're just waiting for the date," Burkard said. "I guess that's another process, to do the scheduling."

Cope joined the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse in 1862 and went on to become mother superior of the congregation in the late 1880s.

Burkard served as superior of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Third Order Regular, based in Williamsville, prior to a 2004 merger of Franciscan nuns from Syracuse, Williamsville and Hastings-on-Hudson. She was elected general minister of the merged communities, with oversight of the local push for Cope's canonization.

Two years later, Burkard's brother, Monsignor Paul J. E. Burkard, was named to head Baker Victory Services and Our Lady of Victory Basilica, which includes the responsibility of promoting the cause for canonization of Father Nelson H. Baker, the venerable priest from Lackawanna who served the poor and orphaned.

The Burkards are thought to be the only brother and sister in the world to lead separate canonization efforts simultaneously.

The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities on Tuesday introduced Sharon Smith of Syracuse, who is believed to have been miraculously cured through the intercession of Cope.

Smith, 65, suffered pancreatitis that tore a hole in her stomach and intestine and left her unconscious for months in a Syracuse hospital.

It was only after a Franciscan nun prayed with soil from Cope's gravesite pinned to Smith's hospital gown that Smith experienced what the Vatican found to be a miraculous recovery, with no known scientific or medical explanation.

Smith spent 10 months in the hospital in 2005 and 2006 before her inexplicable cure -- which was the second Vatican-certified miracle needed to propel Cope to sainthood.

Cope, who was born in Germany and grew up in Utica, lived in Syracuse from 1862 to 1883. She died in 1918 in Kalaupapa on the isle of Molokai, Hawaii, where Franciscan sisters continue the ministry work with leprosy patients that Cope began more than 128 years ago.