.- Two figures in U.S. Catholic history, a 19th century bishop and a 20th century religious sister, moved closer to possible sainthood with a May 10 decree from the Pope approving their public veneration.
During a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Benedict XVI authorized decrees of “heroic virtue” for the Servants of God Frederic Baraga, the first Bishop of Marquette, and Miriam Teresa Demjanovich of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth.
Both will now bear the title “Venerable,” in the place of “Servant of God.” Catholics now have formal approval to pray directly to Bishop Baraga and Sister Miriam Teresa as intercessors before God.
Thursday's meeting was also notable for the Pope's action in regard to St. Hildegard of Bingen, a 12-century Benedictine nun and author who has long been venerated as a saint. On Thursday, the Pope formally added her to the Church's roster of saints, extending her liturgical feast throughout the world.
Bishop Alexander K. Sample of Marquette announced on May 10 that he was “thrilled beyond words” by the “significant step” toward the beatification and canonization of his predecessor, Venerable Frederic Baraga. Canonization will require two documented and verified miracles through his intercession.
Born in Slovenia during 1797, Baraga came to the U.S. as a missionary to Native Americans in Michigan during 1830. Nicknamed the “snowshoe priest” for his preaching journeys in the Upper Great Lakes, he served as the area's first bishop from 1853 until his death in 1868.
Venerable Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, the daughter of Eastern Catholic immigrants from Slovakia, was born in 1901 and lived only 26 years. After graduating with high honors as a literature major, she taught and later joined the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth in New Jersey.
Sister Teresa continued to teach during the last two full years of her life. She also gave a series of spiritual conferences, which were compiled after her death in the book “Greater Perfection.” The conferences stressed the call to holiness for people in every state of life. She died after several months of health struggles in 1927.
Along with the two now-venerable U.S. Catholics, nine other prospective saints were found to have led lives of heroic virtue, advancing them from the title of “Servant of God” to the rank of “Venerable.”
Pope Benedict also gave approval to miracles in the cases of two Italians, the Servants of God Tommaso da Olera and Sister Maria Troncatti. Martyrdom was decreed in the cases of 14 Franciscans killed for their faith in the 16th century, as well as 23 European martyrs of the modern age.