Tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, to participate in the canonization ceremony of a religious sister who left France to establish a new mission in Indiana, a Mexican bishop who operated an underground seminary, and two others.
Pope Benedict XVI pronounced Mother Theodore Guerin a Saint of the Catholic Church, along with three other clergy and religious, this past weekend.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago assisted at the event, as well as a delegation of students and staff from the recently renamed Saint Theodore Guerin High School in Indiana. Two of the students were altar servers.
Phil McCord, 60, whose restored vision was approved as the miracle needed for the canonization, also attended the canonization. McCord manages the campus of Guerin's order in Indiana. In need of a corneal transplant, his eyesight started to improve the day after he entered the chapel at the college and asked for Guerin’s help.
In his homily, the Pope described Mother Guerin as a generous disciple of Christ “who responded unreservedly to the call of the divine Teacher.”
Born in France, Mother Guerin entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence in 1823, and worked as a teacher. In 1839, her superiors asked her to found a new community in the United States. She and five other sisters arrived at a simple log-cabin chapel in the heart of the forest at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.
“With great trust in Divine Providence, Mother Theodore overcame many challenges and persevered in the work that the Lord had called her to do. By the time of her death in 1856, the Sisters were running schools and orphanages throughout the state of Indiana,” the Pope said.
"How much good has been accomplished by the Sisters of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods! How much more good they will be able to do if they remain faithful to their holy vocation!" the Pope added, quoting the new saint.
“Mother Theodore Guerin is a beautiful spiritual figure and a model of Christian life. She was always available for the missions upon which the Church sent her; she found strength and courage for this work in the Eucharist, in prayer and in an infinite confidence in Divine Providence. Her interior strength propelled her to pay particular attention to the poor, especially to children,” he said in French.
"Mother Theodore once said that we are not asked to do all of God's work in this world, just the work we can do,” Angela White, 42, from Indianapolis told The Associated Press, “and I think this is exactly what we have to do."
Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia, who risked his life to tend to the wounded during the Mexican revolution, was also canonized. Despite persecution by the anti-clerical Mexican state, he continued to minister to the people, sometimes in disguise, and managed to operate the seminary in Mexico City clandestinely for 15 years. He died in 1938.
The Holy Father noted the bishop’s particular devotion to operating his seminary. "May the example of St. Raphael Guizar Valencia," said the Pope, "be a call to brother bishops and priests to consider as a fundamental element of their pastoral projects - alongside the spirit of poverty and evangelization - the fomentation of priestly and religious vocations and their formation in accordance with Christ's heart."
The new Mexican Saint was also a member of the Knights of Columbus and is the first bishop/Saint of the Catholic fraternal organization. He is the seventh Knight to be named a Saint.
Fr. Filippo Smaldone, an Italian priest who was a trailblazer for education of the deaf, dedicating himself to poor children in Naples and founded a congregation of sisters.
Pope Benedict called St. Filippo, “a priest with a great heart, nourished through constant prayer and Eucharistic adoration; he was above all a witness to and servant of charity which he displayed magnificently in serving the poor, especially the deaf, to whom he dedicated himself entirely.”
Sr. Rosa Venerini she founded the Congregation of the Holy Venerini Teachers and pushed to establish the first public schools for girls in Italy. "She did not content herself with giving girls an adequate education, but made it her concern to ensure them a complete formation, with concrete reference to the doctrinal teaching of the Church,” the Holy Father noted. “Even today her apostolic style continues to characterize the life" of the congregation she founded. "How important, even for modern society, is the service [the congregation] provides in the field of schooling, and especially in the formation of women."
At the beginning of his homily, the Holy Father commented on the Gospel account of the rich young man, affirming how "a saint is that man or that woman who, responding with joy and generosity to the call of Christ, leaves everything to follow Him."
"Earthly riches occupy and preoccupy the mind and the heart. Jesus does not say they are evil, but that they distance one from God if they are not, so to say, 'invested' for the kingdom of heaven, in other words used to help those who live in poverty."
“The Church rejoices in the four new saints,” the Pope said. “May their example inspire us and their prayers obtain for us guidance and courage.”