The National Black Catholic Congress, Inc.
Venerable Pierre Toussaint
The National Black Catholic Congress | 320 Cathedral St. Baltimore, MD 21201 | 410-547-8496
© 2017 The National Black Catholic Congress, All Rights Reserved
Denver's Angel of Charity was born into slavery, at Hannibal,
Missouri, between 1833 and 1848. As a young child, Julia's
right eye was destroyed by a cruel slavemaster's whip.
Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Julia
subsequently earned her keep by serving white families in
Missouri, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico—though
mostly in the Denver area. Whatever she could spare, Julia
spent assisting poor families in her neighborhood. When her
resources were inadequate, she begged for food, fuel and clothing for the needy. To avoid embarrassing the people she helped, Julia did most of her charitable work under cover of night through dark alleys.
Julia entered the Catholic Church at Sacred Heart Parish in Denver in 1880. The Jesuits who ran the
parish considered her the most enthusiastic promoter of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus they had
ever seen. Every month she visited on foot every fire station in Denver and delivered literature of the
Sacred Heart League to the firemen, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
A daily communicant, Julia had a rich devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin and
continued her prayers while working and moving about. She joined the Secular Franciscan Order in
1901 and was active in it till her death in 1918. Source
The Process of Becoming a Saint
by FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS for The Arlington Catholic Herald
The official process for declaring someone a saint is called canonization. Prior to the year 1234, the Church did not have a formal process as such. Usually martyrs and those recognized as holy were declared saints by the Church at the time of their deaths. Before the legalization of Christianity in the year 313 by Emperor Constantine, the tombs of martyrs, like St. Peter, were marked and kept as places for homage. The anniversaries of their deaths were remembered and placed on the local Church calendar. After legalization, oftentimes basilicas or shrines were built over these tombs.
As time went on, the Church saw the need to tighten the canonization process. Unfortunately, sometimes figures of legends were honored as saints. Or once, the local church in Sweden canonized an imbibing monk who was killed in a drunken brawl: hardly evidence of martyrdom. Therefore, in the year 1234, Pope Gregory IX established procedures to investigate the life of a candidate saint and any attributed miracles. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V entrusted the Congregation of Rites (later named the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints) to oversee the entire process. Beginning with Pope Urban VIII in 1634, various Popes have revised and improved the norms and procedures for canonization.
Today the process proceeds as follows: When a person dies who has "fame of sanctity" or "fame of martyrdom," the Bishop of the Diocese usually initiates the investigation. One element is whether any special favor or miracle has been granted through this candidate saint's intercession. The Church will also investigate the candidate's writings to see if they possess "purity of doctrine," essentially, nothing heretical or against the faith. All of this information is gathered, and then a transumptum, a faithful copy, duly authenticated and sealed, is submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. The person may be declared a Servant of God.
"Servant of God" is the title given to a deceased person of the Catholic Church whose life and works are being investigated in consideration for official recognition by the Pope and the Catholic Church as a saint in Heaven.
Once the cause is accepted by the Congregation, further investigation is conducted. If the candidate was a martyr, the Congregation determines whether he died for the faith and truly offered his life in a sacrifice of love for Christ and the Church. In other cases, the congregation examines to see if the candidate was motivated by a profound charity towards his neighbor, and practiced the virtues in an exemplary manner and with heroism. Throughout this investigation the "general promoter of the faith," or devil's advocate, raises objections and doubts which must be resolved. Once a candidate is declared to have lived life with heroic virtue, he may be declared Venerable.
The next step is beatification. A martyr may be beatified and declared "Blessed" by virtue of martyrdom itself. Otherwise, the candidate must be credited with a miracle. In verifying the miracle, the Church looks at whether God truly performed a miracle and whether the miracle was in response to the intercession of the candidate saint. Once beatified, the candidate saint may be venerated but with restriction to a city, diocese, region, or religious family. Accordingly, the Pope would authorize a special prayer, Mass, or proper Divine Office honoring the Blessed. After beatification, another miracle is needed for canonization and the formal declaration of sainthood.
Most recently, we have witnessed this process in the canonization on October 11 of Edith Stein, a Carmelite nun who took the name "Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross." Just a few highlights of her life: She was born in Breslau, Germany, studied at both the University of Breslau and the University of Gottingen, served as a teaching assistant for the great philosopher Edmund Husserl, and received her Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Freiburg in 1917. Wrestling with her Jewish faith and being drawn toward Catholicism, she was baptized and received into the Catholic Church on Jan. 1, 1922. She taught in various capacities, until the Nazi government prohibited all Jews from teaching in 1933. She entered the Carmelite monastery in Cologne, Germany in 1933, but transferred to the monastery in Echt, Holland in 1938 to protect the other sisters. Finally, on Aug. 2, 1942, she was arrested by the Gestapo for being a Catholic sister and of Jewish descent, transported to Auschwitz, and gassed on August 9, 1942.
Pope John Paul II beatified her on May 1, 1987, declaring her a martyr of the faith. Interestingly, when the sisters cleaned her cell at the monastery, they found a small picture with her handwriting on the back, which read, "I wish to offer my life as a sacrifice for the salvation of the Jews." Truly, she offered her life to the Lord.
The miracle due to her intercession involves a young girl, name Teresia Benedicta, who suffered in 1987 from a lethal dose of Tylenol which crippled her liver functions. The little girl's condition continued to worsen. (The daughter's father, a Melkite priest, sees two coincidences: First, he learned that his ordination date coincided with the date of Edith Stein's death. Second, after an intense study of her life and works, he and his wife named their newborn daughter Teresia Benedicta.) After invoking the intercession of St. Edith/Teresa Benedicta, the little girl miraculously recovered. In 1998, the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, after careful examination, determined that the cure defied any natural explanation and must be attributed to divine intervention through St. Edith/Teresa Benedicta. Since she was a martyr and now the intercessor for a miraculous cure, Pope John Paul II canonized her as a saint.
In all, we must not lose sight that this thorough process exists because of how important the saints are as examples for us, the faithful who strive to live in the Kingdom of God now and see its fulfillment in Heaven. Vatican II declared, "God shows to men, in a vivid way, His presence and His face in the lives of those companions of ours in the human condition who are more perfectly transformed in the image of Christ. He speaks to us in them and offers us a sign of this kingdom to which we are powerfully attracted, so great a cloud of witnesses is there given and such a witness to the truth of the Gospel. It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek rather that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened" ("Lumen Gentium," No. 50).
Saunders, Rev. William. "The Process of Becoming a Saint." Arlington Catholic Herald. This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald., http://www.catholicherald.com/.
The Author: Father William Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope parish in Potomac Falls, Virginia. He is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns, and Straight Answers II.
She was born Elizabeth Lange in the around 1794 in Santiago de Cuba, where she lived in a primarily French speaking community. She received an excellent education and in the early 1800s Elizabeth left Cuba and settled in the United States. Elizabeth came to Baltimore as a courageous, loving, and deeply spiritual woman. There was no free public education for African American children in Maryland until 1868, so she responded to that need by opening a school in her home in the Fells Point area of the city for the children.
Providence intervened through the person of Reverend James Hector Joubert, SS, who was encouraged by James Whitfield, Archbishop of Baltimore, and presented Elizabeth Lange with the idea to found a religious congregation for the education of African American girls. Father Joubert would provide direction, solicit financial assistance,
Servant of God, Fr. Augustus Tolton
Venerable Henriette Delille
Venerable Henriette Delille was born in 1812. She was born a free woman of color and lived her life in New Orleans, Louisiana.
When Henriette was 24 years old, she underwent a religious experience that expressed itself in a brief declaration of faith and love. On the flyleaf of a book centered on the Eucharist, is a profession of love, in her own handwriting, written in French: "Je crois en Dieu. J'espère en Dieu. J'aime. Je v[eux] vivre et mourir pour Dieu."
In 1836 Henriette drew up the rules and regulations for devout Christian women, which would eventually become the Society of the Holy Family, founded in 1842. The group was founded for the purpose of nursing the sick, caring for the poor, and instructing the ignorant.
In the eyes of the world Henriette
had purchased. They later adopted Euphémie, his orphaned niece. Both preceded him in death.
Within the Catholic community, even during his lifetime, Toussaint enjoyed the reputation of an exceptionally devout and charitable person. Every day he attended the 6:00 a.m. Mass in St. Peter's Church, where he was a pewholder for many years. Perhaps his favorite charity was St. Patrick's Orphan Asylum, an institution that he often visited
Pierre donated to various charities, generously assisting blacks and whites in need. He and his wife opened their home to orphans and educated them. The couple also nursed abandoned people who were suffering from yellow fever. Urged to retire and enjoy the wealth he had accumulated, Pierre responded, “I have enough for myself, but if I stop working I have not enough for others.”
Born in modern-day Haiti and brought to New York City as a slave, Pierre died a free man, a renowned hairdresser and one of New York City’s most well-known Catholics.
Pierre Bérard, a plantation owner, made Toussaint a house slave and allowed his grandmother to teach her grandson how to read and write. In his early 20s, Pierre, his younger sister, his aunt, and two other house slaves accompanied their master’s son to New York City because of political unrest at home. Apprenticed to a local hairdresser, Pierre learned the trade quickly and eventually worked in the homes of rich women in New York City.
When his master died, Pierre supported his master’s widow and the other slaves himself, and was freed shortly before the widow’s death in 1807. Four years later, he married Marie Rose Juliette, whose freedom he
may not have accomplished much, but her obituary and the Catholic Church tell us otherwise. “ . . . (Henriette) devoted herself untiringly for many years, without reserve, to the religious instruction of the people of New Orleans, principally of slaves. . . .” The last line of her obituary reads, ". . . for the love of Jesus Christ she had become the humble and devout servant of the slaves.”
Venerable Henriette Delille lived her prayer: "I believe in God. I hope in God. I love. I want to live and die for God."
Portrait used with permission of the Archdiocese of Denver
The Process of Canonization
He was born of the marriage union of two slaves, Peter Paul Tolton and his wife Martha Jane, April 1, 1854. With the outbreak of the War between the States, Peter Paul hoped to gain freedom for his family and escaped to the North where he served in the Union Army, and was one of the 180,000 blacks who were killed in the war. His widow decided that she would see her husband’s quest for freedom realized in his children. After managing a crossing of the Mississippi River she made her way to Illinois and settled in the small town of Quincy. When her children attempted to attend Catholic school, parents of the other school children were not happy, so to avoid a messy situation, the School Sisters of Notre Dame decided to tutor the Tolton children privately.
As Augustus grew older he began displaying an interest in the priesthood. His parish
priests, Fathers McGuirr and Richardt, encouraged the young man in this aspiration and tried, without success, to enroll him in several diocesan seminaries. If the seminaries would not have him, they would begin Augustus’ education in theology themselves. Finally, in 1878, the Franciscan College in Quincy accepted him, and two years later he was enrolled at the college of the Propaganda Fidei in Rome. After completing his courses there, Augustus Tolton was ordained on April 24, 1886. During that time he had assumed that he would be sent to Africa, but was instead sent back to the United States to work in a parish in Illinois.
Father Tolton’s first assignment was Saint Joseph’s church in his home town of Quincy. During his two years there he gained enormous respect from many of the German and Irish parishioners, who flocked to Saint Joseph’s to sit with their black brothers and sisters in Christ and hear his inspiring sermons. He was later given a parish on the south side of the city, Saint Augustine’s church, which would later become Saint Monica’s. This would be Father Tolton’s parish for life, and it also became the center from which he ministered to all the Black Catholics of Chicago.
Father Tolton’s reputation as a preacher earned him many pulpits and podiums from which he expounded upon the truths of the Faith and the vocation of all to sanctity. He addressed the First Catholic Colored Congress in Washington DC in 1889.
Join our mailing list:
and encourage other "women of colour" to become members of this, the first congregation of African American women religious in the history of the Catholic Church. Elizabeth joyfully accepted Father Joubert's idea. On July 2, 1829 Elizabeth and three other women professed their vows and became the Oblate Sisters of Providence. Elizabeth, foundress and first superior general of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, took the religious name of Mary.
Servant of God, Mother Mary Lange