Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared regularly in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds BS and MS degrees and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside in Connecticut.
Just in time for the 100th Anniversary of Fatima, the diocesan phase of the canonization process for Sister Lucia, one of the three seers who saw and conversed with Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima, came to an official close on Feb. 13.
The announcement came from the Shrine at Fatima in Portugal and the Diocese of Coimbra where her cause began on April 30, 2008.
The date also marked the 11th anniversary of Sister Lucia’s death. The first part of her canonization cause began in 2008, just three years after she died, thanks to the dispensation granted by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. (The Church normally requires a five-year waiting period before a cause can be opened.)
It was the same privilege given to the Pope of Fatima — St. John Paul II. Benedict waived the normal five-year waiting period for him also.
In the shrine’s official statement about this major step, Father Carlos Cabecinhas, the rector, said he had “great joy” with the news.
The closing of this step of the Diocesan Inquiry of the “Process for the Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God Lucia de Jesus’ came about during the Feb. 13 session in the Carmel de Santa Teresa, in Coimbra. The official closing included a Mass of Thanksgiving and then after it a concert with the Lisbon Cantata Symphonic Choir and the Children’s Choir of the Coimbra Regional Conservatory.
It was like a “homecoming” for Servant of God Lucia Santos, whose full religious name is Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart. She lived for 57 years as a Carmelite. She had entered the order after first living many years as a Dorothean Sister.
Major Process Done
Now that the diocesan phase has officially closed, the documents are being transferred for examination to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in Rome.
“I am, therefore, very happy with the conclusion of this stage,” said Sister Angela Coelho who is the vice-postulator for Sister Lucia’s cause.
It took from 2008 when her cause opened until now to complete the necessary work because of the volumes of material that had to be examined.
For one, there were the testimonies that had to be gathered from 60 witnesses concerning the holiness and heroic virtues of Sister Lucia.
For another, all of her writings had to be gathered and examined.
“Each page that Sister Lucia wrote had to be meticulously analyzed and we are talking of a universe of 10,000 letters that we managed to gather and of a diary with 2,000 pages, in addition to other more personal texts,” explained Sister Angela Coelho who had already been familiar with the seer.
She explained that Sister Lucia’s process took long because she was “a woman who lived almost 98 years, who corresponded with popes, since Pius XII to John Paul II, with cardinals” plus a great many others.
The diocesan phase required about 30 people working fulltime. They included eight people on the historical commission and 18 theologians.
Sister Angela also remains the postulator for the cause of canonization of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, Lucia’s cousins who were the other two seers of Fatima. They were beatified by St. John Paul II on a Fatima anniversary, May 13, 2000. Sister Lucia was present in Fatima for the joyous occasion of their beatification.
In fact, she is now buried with her cousins and fellow seers in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in the Shrine of Fatima.
Next Immediate Steps
With the diocesan stage of the process of Sister Lucia’s canonization cause now finished, from the voluminous material a positio — the official position document — will be written and delivered to the Vatican congregation for the Causes for Canonization. The positio is usually very long since it’s a compilation of the studies and reports the commissions arrived at.
The less formal needs and steps are also very important.
The Fatima Shrine’s rector Father Cabecin has made clear what is now necessary.
“The challenge that I leave for everyone is that you all pray for the process to reach its end as fast as possible,” he said. “We are all aware of the importance of Sister Lucia, the seer that lived more years; her fame of holiness and what is expected is that we may support with our prayer a complex process but which we are certain that it will get good reception.”