The Diocese of Marquette is investigating an possible miracle attributed to Servant of God, Bishop Frederic Baraga. The official inquiry will move the cause for Bishop Baraga's canonization forward, which was opened for the prelate in 1952.
In press conference on Wednesday, the current Bishop of Marquette, Alexander K. Sample, announced the recent development, saying, “Since my first days as a seminarian studying for the priesthood, I have had great devotion to Bishop Baraga.”
“As his eleventh successor, I am thrilled at the prospect of a miracle that will advance his cause. With all the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful of the diocese, I give thanks to God for his, holy, priestly, example,” he added.
Father Ronald Browne, who has been appointed to lead the work of the canonical tribunal, explained the story behind the alleged miracle. “We have a case involving what was thought to be a tumor on a patient's liver that showed up on various tests, including a CT scan and an ultrasound. However, when exploratory surgery was done, there was no tumor to be found,” Fr. Browne said.
The Diocese of Marquette reported that while in the Upper Peninsula, the patient and the patient's family invoked the intercession of Bishop Baraga and placed his stole on the sick person's abdomen. Following the prayers, the patient said that the pain in the abdominal area went away.
The diocese explained that in order for the event to be considered as a miracle, it needs to be affirmed as something that science cannot explain and be attributable to the intercession of the candidate for sainthood.
Once the tribunal has investigated the event – the process is scheduled to begin on March 12 – two physicians must testify regarding the physical condition of the patient before and after the event. After the alleged miracle has been verified, documentation will be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican, who will then submit the cause to Pope Benedict XVI. The Holy Father will then determine whether or not Bishop Baraga will be beatified.
If the miracle is recognized as authentic, the diocese will need to verify one more miracle in order for the Michigan bishop to be declared a saint.
Bishop Baraga was born in 1797 in Slovenia, and come to the United States as a missionary to the upper Great Lakes region in 1830. Ministering to the Odawa and Ojibwa Native American tribes, the bishop is said to have traveled throughout the 80,000 square mile territory by means of boat, canoe, horse, dog sled and even snowshoe. Often called the “Snowshoe Priest,” he was consecrated a bishop in 1853 and served until his death in 1868. Bishop Baraga is credited with writing a Ojibwa/English dictionary which is still in use today.