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Archive for Monday, October 16, 2006

Pope names four new saints he hopes will inspire Catholics

October 16, 2006

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— A French nun who provided education to pioneers on the American frontier and a Mexican bishop who fought anti-clerical policies in the 1920s were among four new saints named Sunday.

Also included in the new roll call of saints named by Pope Benedict XVI were two Italians: a nun who advocated public schooling for girls in late 17th century Italy and a priest who was a trailblazer for education of the deaf.

"The Church rejoices in the four new saints," Benedict told a crowd of several thousand people at the ceremony in St. Peter's Square. "May their example inspire us and their prayers obtain for us guidance and courage."

Ailing Chicago Cardinal Francis George was among those celebrating Mass on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica. He and other Americans were there to honor Mother Theodore Guerin, one of the new saints, who established St. Mary-of-the-Woods College for women in 1841 in Indiana.

Despite decades of poor health, Guerin, who was born in 1798, set out with a handful of fellow French nuns for Indiana, where they founded a simple log-cabin chapel. For years, she resisted a local bishop's opposition to her plans to establish a local community of nuns.

"Mother Theodore overcame many challenges and persevered in the work that the Lord has called her to do," the pope said in his homily.

Phil McCord, the American whose restored vision was judged by the Vatican to be the miracle necessary for Guerin's sainthood, called the ceremony "overwhelming."

McCord, a 60-year-old engineer who manages the campus of Guerin's order, recalled how he had faced a corneal transplant after damage from cataract surgery. He entered the chapel at the college, asked Guerin for help and his eyesight started to improve the next morning, said McCord, the son of a lay Baptist minister.

Also named a saint was Mexican Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia, who risked his life to tend to the wounded during the Mexican revolution - sometimes disguised as a street vendor or a musician.

In 1921, he renovated a seminary in Jalapa, Mexico, but the government later seized the building. He succeeded in having the seminary operate clandestinely for 15 years in Mexico City. He died in 1938.

Benedict hailed Guizar Valencia for working tirelessly, even facing persecution, to ensure that seminarians were properly educated "according to the heart of Christ."

At least 25,000 people paraded past the remains of Guizar Valencia on Saturday and into Sunday in Jalapa, the capital of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.

"We hope that (the canonization) will help people believe more easily in this Mexican saint," said Isidro Quechuleno, a Jalapa farmer.

Filippo Smaldone, an Italian priest who lived from 1848 to 1923, gained sainthood for his education and assistance for the deaf. He also founded an order of nuns, the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts.

Rosa Venerini, who died in 1728, gained sainthood for founding the Congregation of the Holy Venerini Teachers and pushing to establish the first public schools for girls in Italy.

Sunday marked Benedict's first canonization ceremony in nearly a year.

His predecessor, John Paul II, led several canonization and beatification ceremonies yearly, but Benedict has taken a less visible approach. Ceremonies for beatification, the last formal step before sainthood, are now led by local prelates in the country where the candidate lived or worked.

But Benedict has championed the call for John Paul's sainthood.

A few weeks after John Paul's April 2, 2005, death, Benedict announced that he was putting John Paul on the fast track for possible sainthood by waiving the traditional five-year waiting period before the process can begin.

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