Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Cause for Fr. McGivney

~from Yale Daily News
Word of the canonization effort has begun to spread among Catholic students at Yale, some of whom heard about the veneration at mass last week. Jacob Garza ’09 said he had found out about McGivney’s possible canonization at Saint Mary’s Church and that McGivney’s potential sainthood would be “something for New Haven to be extremely proud about.”

As for the Catholic community at Yale, Garza said he suspects few students would notice or care about McGivney’s canonization.

“There just isn’t a humongous interest in religion at our school,” Garza said.

McGivney, born in Waterbury, Conn. in 1852, was a parish priest at Saint Mary’s Church until his death in 1890. While ministering to working-class families in New Haven, he founded a Catholic fraternity to provide financial support for the widows and children of local men killed by disease or work-related accidents — a precursor to modern-day life insurance.

Today, the Knights of Columbus is still headquartered in New Haven and is now the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, with 1.7 million members worldwide. It continues to function as a life-insurance program while also organizing volunteer efforts within local communities. The New Haven chapter, for example, maintains a museum with an exhibit about McGivney’s life and has donated funds for disaster relief after Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina.

The spiritual impact McGivney’s canonization would have on the organization is significant, Allen said.

“Father McGivney’s canonization would be an outstanding moment for the Knights of Columbus,” he said. “It would fulfill our wishes, and it would establish a significant claim on the work that McGivney did.”

Waiting for a miracle

But becoming a saint is not easy.

The process entails four steps: the appointment of a postulator, recognition of “heroic virtue,” beatification and, finally, canonization.

After the death of a notable or exemplary Catholic, a bishop may recognize that person’s virtue and determine that person to be worthy of being called a saint. The bishop then appoints a postulator who works as an advocate for the legacy of the potential saint.

After researching and compiling factual evidence and records left by or about the person, the postulator sends the information to the Vatican, where the Congregation for the Causes of Saints examines the evidence, submitting a recommendation to the pope on whether or not the individual should be recognized as a “Venerable Servant of God” — indicating that the person has exhibited “heroic virtue.” If the pope chooses to identify this person as “venerable,” the postulator moves onto the next step: finding two miracles.

Postulators look for documents or accounts that describe miracles performed by the potential saints. Miracles must be instantaneous, unexplainable and unaided by any medical or scientific procedure. If one true miracle is found, the pope can beatify that person, giving him or her the title “Blessed.” A second miracle must be discovered before the pope can canonize the individual.

McGivney has just passed the second step of four, but McGivney’s postulator, Gabriel O’Donnell, who is also a professor of spiritual theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington D.C., said he has already found documentation for one miracle he thinks may be legitimate.

The process the Congregation for the Causes of Saints uses to verify the miracle is an exhaustive one, he said.

“It’s not a situation where you can just call up the Vatican,” said Peter Sonski, director of public relations at the Knights of Columbus. “There’s no definite amount of time. It’s all in God’s time, if you will.”

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