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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sainthood Causes Advance for Boys Town Founder, Other Americans

By Lisa Maxson

Father Edward J. Flanagan
OMAHA, Neb. (CNS) -- Father Edward Flanagan was declared a "servant of God" during a Mass March 17 at Immaculate Conception Church at Boys Town as the Archdiocese of Omaha formally opened the cause for sainthood for the founder of the home for troubled youths.

Omaha Archbishop George J. Lucas presided at the liturgy and Father Steven Boes, executive director of Boys Town, concelebrated and was homilist.

During his homily, Father Boes sat in front of the altar with several Boys Town residents gathered around him, and he described the early days of Father Flanagan's ministry in downtown Omaha in the early 1900s.

Directing the sermon at the youths, he said Father Flanagan helped children in need, and the internationally known ministry that stands as his legacy continues to do the same work.

Alluding to the clerical sex abuse scandal, Father Boes said the cause for Father Flanagan's sainthood appeared to be happening at an opportune time for the church, which some have perceived in a negative light because of the evil actions of a few priests who have hurt children.

"The church needs to hold up people who held children up," Father Boes said.

At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Lucas formally opened the cause for sainthood, which included the archbishop and five members of a tribunal taking oaths of secrecy and a promise to faithfully execute their duties as they review Father Flanagan's life and works. Six people forming theological and historical commissions created for the cause of canonization also took oaths, with each placing one hand on Father Flanagan's personal Bible.

Father Flanagan's was not the only U.S. sainthood cause to advance in recent weeks. Among the other developments:

-- The Vatican is reviewing documents that would allow the cause of sainthood to go forward for Cora Evans, a wife, mother, and possible mystic who was baptized Catholic in 1935 after becoming disillusioned with the Mormon faith.

-- The Diocese of Allentown, Pa., reported that the Vatican has given its formal approval for the canonization process to begin for Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek, a U.S.-born priest who spent many years in Soviet labor camps and ministered clandestinely among the Siberian population after his release.

-- The Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., opened the diocesan phase of the canonization cause of Maryknoll co-founder Father Thomas Frederick Price March 9. The cause was originally introduced in the Archdiocese of Hong Kong, where Father Price died, but was transferred to the Archdiocese of New York, where the majority of the documentation regarding his life is located, and then to North Carolina, where he was born and spent 25 years in missionary work.

Evans, who died in Boulder Creek, Calif., on March 30, 1957, reported visions of Jesus and the saints and a mission from Jesus to promote the "mystical humanity of Christ," the idea that Christ is always within us and we should behave always as Christ would, said Mike McDevitt, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Pillar in Half Moon Bay, Calif., who is the promoter of Evans' cause of sainthood. The spirituality is also focused on praying the Mass.

Evans' two children were baptized with her in Ogden, Utah, and her husband, Mack, became Catholic shortly afterward, with many family and friends following her from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said McDevitt. Born in 1904, she moved to Southern California in 1941 and to Boulder Creek in 1956.

"Cora loved the Mormons. She considered the Mormons her heritage people," McDevitt told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper. "She wanted them to know who Jesus was and she wanted them to have the Eucharist. She prayed for Mormons."

Evans rejected the Mormon faith in 1924, for what she considered to be false teachings about God, and began a 10-year search for the true religion, according to a biography presented to the Vatican by the Diocese of Monterey in February 2011.

She became Catholic shortly after listening to the Catholic radio hour on Dec. 9, 1934, when she was too sick to change the station despite a great aversion to Catholicism, McDevitt said. She went to nearby St. Joseph Catholic Church with questions because what she heard was nothing like what she had been taught about Catholicism, he said. She was baptized March 30, 1935.

Jesus and many saints reportedly appeared multiple times to Evans, according to the two-page chronology sent by Monterey Bishop Richard J. Garcia to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes.

In Father Ciszek's cause, the Allentown Diocese said materials and documentation sent to the Vatican in 2006 included testimony from 45 witnesses, the Jesuit's published and unpublished works, and transcription of hundreds of his handwritten documents.

An additional 4,000 pages of documentation from the Jesuit archives in the U.S. and Rome, the original store of documents archived at the Father Ciszek Center in Shenandoah, Pa., and other important documents obtained from state records in Russia were sent to the Vatican in 2011.

Father Ciszek volunteered to work in Poland in 1939 and fled to the Soviet Union during World War II. Captured by the Soviets as a suspected spy, he was interrogated for years at Moscow's notorious Lubianka prison, then sent to a Siberian labor camp. After his release years later, he lived and worked in small towns in Siberia, where he heard confessions and celebrated Mass, at risk of being discovered and executed.

Presumed dead by his fellow Jesuits, the priest was released in 1963 in a prisoner exchange negotiated by President John F. Kennedy. He later wrote "With God in Russia," an account of his years in the Soviet Union, and "He Leadeth Me," his spiritual memoirs.

Father Price, who co-founded the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, also called Maryknoll, with Father James A. Walsh in 1911, was the first native-born priest from North Carolina.

Born Aug. 19, 1860, in Wilmington, N.C., and known as Fred, he was ordained June 20, 1886, for the Apostolic Vicariate of North Carolina, which covered the entire state but only included 800 Catholics.

Named in 1887 as pastor of St. Paul Church in New Bern, which included 17 missions in an area covering more than 300 square miles, Father Price asked his bishop in 1896 for permission to start a magazine. Truth magazine, established in Raleigh in 1897, had 17,000 subscribers throughout the country by 1905.

After he and his seminary classmate, Father (later Bishop) Walsh, received Vatican permission to create Maryknoll, Father Price departed in 1918 with the first group of Maryknoll missionaries who had been assigned to work in China. He soon died of an infected appendix Sept. 12, 1919.

The Diocese of Raleigh said Father Price is being proposed for sainthood because of "his great love of God, his holiness of life, his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and his faithful dedication to priestly ministry."

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