Sanctity in America 2017: Canonization Causes Underway
The saints of the Church in America include the North American Martyrs, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Junípero Serra. Other U.S. holy lives are currently being reviewed for their heroic virtue.
The Register continues its coverage of current causes of canonization in the United States.
Two Extraordinary Women
When her cause for canonization opened in the Archdiocese of New York in 2013, Servant of God Mother Mary Teresa Tallon (1867-1954) already seemed decades ahead of the New Evangelization with the order of contemplative missionaries she founded in New York City on the Solemnity of the Assumption in 1920 — the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate. Before this major move, she had already been a nun with the Holy Cross Sisters for 33 years.
Mother Mary Teresa’s Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate do catechetical work and evangelization through door-to-door visits in parishes. They greatly focus on bringing lapsed Catholics back to the faith.
In January 2015, the diocesan phase of the cause for canonization of Mother Mary Teresa was completed and closed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and 8,008 pages of documents headed to the Vatican.
There was a surprise in October 2016, when her body was exhumed for transfer to the motherhouse chapel at Marycrest in Monroe, New York.
“She was well preserved, we discovered,” Sister Maria Catherine, vice postulator for the cause, was pleased to report. “We weren’t prepared for that.” In December 2016, her body was placed in a granite sarcophagus in the motherhouse’s Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.
“People come to pray every day,” said Sister Maria Catherine, “praying to her for miracles. And we have people writing in for prayer for their intentions.” They contact the order online via ParishVisitorSisters.org.
The vice postulator shared some anecdotal examples of prayers that appear to have been answered. One concerned a gentleman who had a debilitating stroke. Doctors gave him no hope. But after asking for Mother’s intercession, he fully recovered, with no damage to his brain, and was able to walk again. Doctors “called him their miracle man.”
Another involved a young child who needed surgery on his intestines.
Doctors were unable to perform the procedure because the intestine was too short.
The sisters were asked to pray for Mother’s intercession. The next day, the doctors found the intestine had grown, allowing for the surgery. The same boy had no spleen, and after intercessory prayers, the boy grew a spleen. Sister Maria Catherine said there was no medical explanation.
The step now in progress is writing and completing the positio, which outlines her heroic virtue. Sister Maria Catherine sees this advancement in the cause as “God’s work,” because everything has “moved along so quickly. It’s a very short time from when we opened.”
Servant of God Mary Virginia Merrick (1866-1955) died in 1955 at the age of 88 and was named a “Servant of God” in 2003.
Postulator Kathleen Asdorian told the Register that the canonization cause (MaryVirginiaMerrick.org) “continues to move ahead.” Just completed was the phase of collecting and transcribing Merrick’s “prolific writings and correspondence as well as documentation about her legacy in establishing the National Christ Child Society in 1887, which has grown to include 44 chapters nationwide.”
Although paralyzed from the waist down from an accident, Merrick established and ran the Christ Child Society to help needy children.
Referring to the many books, journals and letters Merrick wrote, Asdorian shared that her “commitment to children and spiritual insights are extraordinary for a young woman who was paralyzed as a teenager.”
Old and New
Another recent cause, begun in 2015 by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is that of Father William Atkinson (1946-2006), an Augustinian (FatherBillAtkinson.com) who as a novice became a quadriplegic after an accident. Fellow seminarians took care of him as he earned his degree, and he was granted special dispensation by Pope Paul VI for ordination — the first quadriplegic ever to be ordained a Catholic priest.
Father Atkinson taught at Monsignor Bonner-Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, for nearly 30 years and lived the Stations of the Cross heroically, humbly and patiently.
The cause of Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton (1854-1897), America’s first black priest, took a step forward in December 2016, with the exhumation of his body for identification. He was buried in Quincy, Illinois. The canonically requested process positively identified him.
At the time, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry, postulator of Father Tolton’s cause (ToltonCanonization.org), told Chicago Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago, that there were two miracles sent to Rome for consideration, and people have been “testifying to favors from God through Tolton’s intercession: remarkable things — everything from needed employment to illness in the family to all kinds of problems.”
Named “Servant of God” in 2005, Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin (1770-1840) was born of nobility in Eastern Europe, gave up his princely title, and came to America to become a priest — in fact, he was the first priest to receive all of his preparation and orders for priesthood in the United States. Known as the “Apostle of the Alleghenies,” he labored for 41 years over an immense area, humbly declining to be named first bishop of Cincinnati and Detroit to stay with the poor.
In 2007, his cause for canonization (DemetriusGallitzin.org) was officially opened in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In 2013, the diocese named Father Luis Escalante, based in Rome, as the postulator for the cause.
Those in the United States directly involved with the cause talk once a month to the postulator in Rome, who is currently working on the positio. They are now in the process of helping Father Escalante edit the individual chapters. The plan is to get the positio done and edited, so that it can be submitted soon afterward to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
One of the newest causes is that of Rhoda Wise (1888-1948), which was formally opened in October 2016 by the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio. The quiet, modest housewife drew many people to her during her lifetime because of the seemingly miraculous answers they received through her intercession. One of them was young Rita Rizzo. After a visit to Wise, Rizzo was healed of a chronic stomach ailment. Today Rizzo is better known the world over as Mother Angelica.
The cause of Servant of God Patrick Peyton (1909-1992, FatherPeyton.org) opened in 2001.
For decades this Holy Cross Father was a household name known as the “Rosary Priest,” whose international “Rosary Crusades” attracted millions (such as 2 million in São Paulo and an astounding half-million in San Francisco, California, in 1961).
He was also a media pioneer whose Family Theater Productions ran for 22 years, drawing to him the major talents of Hollywood, such as Bing Crosby, Loretta Young, James Stewart, Lucille Ball and Rosalind Russell — an endless list.
Millions of families knew and practiced Father Peyton’s watchword motto: “The Family That Prays Together Stays Together.”
His cause reached a milestone in April 2015 with the presentation of the positio detailing his heroic virtue and holiness.
The latest update came from Holy Cross Father Willy Raymond, president of Holy Cross Family Ministries (HCFM.org).
On June 1, the office was informed by Andrea Ambrosi, the postulator in Rome, that after studying the positio, the theological congress of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted favorably for the cause to move forward.
If the cardinal and archbishop members of the congregation approve, the next step would be for the Holy Father to approve, which can result in declaring Father Peyton “Venerable.”
Father Raymond told the Register, “We are pleased to receive this notice as we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Father Peyton’s death on Saturday, June 3, 2017, and the 75th anniversary of the founding of Family Rosary.”
Read Part 1 here.
Joseph Pronechen is a Register staff writer.