Church News, News About Saints

Another One Bites the Dust

Another beatification cause has apparently dimmed into oblivion.

C’est la vie. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. So everything goes. That holds for canonization causes, too.

They either end in success or fade into nothingness. And while for the latter an imprint may remain, perhaps just a faint one, their dust is blown away by history’s inexorable march, and we forget these heroic men and women.

For instance, this is why you’ve likely never heard of the Servant of God Fr. Magín Catalá, OFM († 1830). A near contemporary of St. Junípero Serra, founder of California’s missions, he spent much of his ecclesiastical career in Mission Santa Clara (with some time also spent at Mission San José).

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He was such a holy man. Indeed his cause was introduced before Serra’s. Something happened around the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, however. His cause was going well, and then it stopped. Did the earthquake destroy the archival material necessary for continuing his process? Did the death of the archbishop who introduced it result in waning interest? Were there too many other priorities that his beatification got put on the backburner and was lost to memory (how soon we forget?)?

Who can say? It was over a century ago (the last activity was in 1909). What we can say is his cause is dead, and no one but a handful of laypeople (your correspondent included) has any real interest in seeing it resurrected.

Same thing with the Servant of God Fr. Leo Heinrichs, OFM († 1908 in odium fidei). I give his remarkable story in my third book, 150 North American Martyrs You Should Know (2014, Servant Books).

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The upshot is this: In 1908, Heinrichs was serving at St. Elizabeth Church in Denver. He had agreed to switch Masses with a priest who had an appointment. Neither of them could know the Mass he took was the one at which an immigrant Italian anarchist had chosen to kill a priest, any priest.

This is a clear-cut case—or so it would seem—of a death in odium fidei, that is martyrdom, someone killed “in hatred of the faith.” His murderer’s admitted motivation was loathing of the Catholic Church.

Still nothing is happening with Father’s cause, which was introduced in 1927. Rather nothing has happened since January 1933. Why? It’s been impossible to get … not even a straight answer. A crooked answer would be OK. Instead there is no answer at all (believe me, I’ve tried).

Which brings us to the next process that has evaporated into the ether.

I was looking at making a donation to the cause of a Servant of God in the name of a friend who had done me a kindness but who wouldn’t take any recompense for it.

So I looked over my list, and I saw the name of Fr. Stephen Eckert of Dublin (Ontario). Here is an excellent short biography of him by Egidio Picucci.

Eckert was a Capuchin priest who worked at his order’s parishes from Yonkers to Milwaukee. It was in this last place that he was especially remembered as one of the founders of St. Benedict the Moor Church. Here he heroically labored amongst the city’s black underclass. He didn’t ask whether they were Catholic. He simply gave them Jesus’s love.

I’ve known his story for a while, and so I contacted someone in the know about his beatification cause.

This was the response I received:

Thanks for your interest. The cause of Fr. Stephen has not been active for several decades [Note: Since 1985] and there are presently no indications of it being re-activated. He was a great and visionary man, but the Black Catholic community [in Milwaukee] is now much more interested the cause of Fr. Augustus Tolton, who is the first known African-American to be ordained in the United States. As for us Capuchins, the cause of Fr. Solanus Casey has tremendous support and is likely to move to beatification in the near future. You can look up his cause online. He was the receptionist [porter] at our friary in Detroit and was known for his miracles of healing and spiritual knowledge. He has had a profound influence on the Church in Detroit. Presently, there is a Fr. Solanus center attached to St. Bonaventure that gets about 40,000 visitors a year. The archbishop of Detroit has been an active supporter of the cause.

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What is interesting about this revelation is the following from a biography of Ven. Solanus:

In late April of 1949, Father Solanus and Fathers Ambrose, Angelus and Herbert from St. Felix set out for Milwaukee by car. They were headed for the unveiling of a statue of a Capuchin, Father Stephen Eckert, who had died there in 1923. Solanus had known him in Yonkers at Sacred Heart, in 1904. He had been so impressed with the holiness of Father Stephen that he worked with others to promote Father Stephen’s cause for beatification.

Given the miracles and fame he achieved even in his lifetime, Ven. Solanus definitely has the better claim to sanctity. And given how expensive beatification and canonization causes can be, I don’t blame the literally poor Capuchins for prioritizing Casey’s cause over that of his confrere. Nonetheless I hope and pray Fr. Eckert’s process gets resurrected someday. He was a remarkable and holy man.

God’s will be done.

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6 thoughts on “Another One Bites the Dust

  1. I would not say that Fr. Magín Catalá, OFM cause was shut down. I belong to a religious community for another order named in honor of him in Santa Clara, California. I know there is a small association in Santa Clara, California that tries to spread devotion to him and keeps track of alleged miracles. There is a monthly gathering of this association.

    While, I don’t know the inner workings of the Franciscan province, it has been hinted to me that they were focused for the last several decades on the canonization of Fr. Juniper Serra, but they are not closed-minded to the cause of Fr. Catala. We can pray that your article may and others may highlight the devotion to his cause that continues.

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    • Father, thank you for your comment. However, I would disagree.

      I did not say the cause in question was shut down. I said it had stopped and was presently dead. For all practical purposes, both are true.

      The positio for Fr. Catalá was sent to Rome in 1909 by the competent actor, the archdiocese of San Francisco.

      Conversely the collection of documents for the cause of St. Junípero did not begin until 1940. The cause was not introduced until 1943.

      And while it is undoubtedly true that the Franciscans have been focused on St. Junípero’s beatification and canonization, one wonders why nothing happened on either his or Fr. Catalá’s cause for 30 years.

      Regardless the competency to resurrect the cause rests with the diocesan ordinary. All it would take is for Bishop McGrath to give his consent and/or express his desire to reactivate the process and, assuming no opposition from the Franciscans and Jesuits who now control Santa Clara, it could happen tomorrow.

      He has not done so. He has shown no public inclination to do so, and when I last spoke with the couple involved in stoking the flame of Father’s memory, he had not privately expressed an inclination to do so, either.

      It is great that an order exists that is named after him. It is fantastic that the guild exists to spread devotion to him.

      But absent diocesan approbation, his cause is moribund.

      That said, yes, let’s pray that people will become aware of him so that his cause may once again progress.

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  2. I was happily surprised to see your remarks about Fr Heinrichs. I had an interest in him because I was pastor of St Mary Star of the Sea parish in Far Rockaway, Queens, NY, where he had served briefly in the late 1890s. I discovered the details of his tragic death when I was researching parish history there. from “Leo Heinrichs” in New CAth. ency.: b. Ostrich, Germany 8/15/1867. Son of Joseph and Agnes Foeres (Diocese of Cologne). Immigrated to the US and entered the OFM in Paterson NJ 12/4/1886. Ordained 1891 Newark cathedral. After 16 years of parochial work in churches entrusted to the Franciscan Province of the Most holy Name of Jesus, he was appointed pastor of St. Elizabeth’s church, Denver. A year later, while distributing Holy Communion in his church he was fatally shot by a anarchist, Joseph Alia, whom revealed at his trial that his motive was hatred of the clergy and Christianity. H’s remains were interred with great honor in Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, Paterson.” Bibliography: Acta Ordinis Fratrorum Minorum 27 (1908) 155-158; A. Wyse. A Martyr of the Eucharist (Paterson 1940).

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  3. Mr. O’Neel, thank you for your attention to the saints who have not been canonized yet (in this article and in your book). And thank you Father Joseph for all you do to remember the Franciscan saints.

    The effort to have the Martyrs of La Florida canonized took a big step last October when the martyrs were declared Servants of God Antonio Cuipa and 81 Companions.

    Lead martyr Antonio was an Apalachee Indian (present day Tallahassee). He was an Inija, second to the Chief. Antonio had a devotion to St Jospeh, because, he explained, that he wanted his people to be ‘one single holy family’. He was married to Josepha and their children were Claire and Francis (ages 10 and 9 at the time of his martyrdom)
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    Antonio’s joy and zeal were infectious. He evangelized other native people who were not Christian. And at least hundreds came to be baptized from the evangelism of Antonio. He was very bright and a star student of his Franciscan teachers. In turn, he helped teach others – Latin, grammar, math – and of course the Catechism.

    Antonio was a master carpenter, sang well, played the guitar, and used reed pipes to play flute music. Antonio approached the non-Christian natives with music. He gave them flutes as a gift and told them that the God they knew had a Son. He would then give them a crucifix, venerate it and ask them to keep it in the center of their village. Antonio’s motto for evangelization was ‘patience and perseverance’.

    Antonio was martyred on a cross, tortured through the long day of Jan 26, 1704, as a fire burned beneath his feet. From the cross he continued to preach the Faith, and then, there on the cross, the Virgin appeared to him! Antonio cried out that she was at his side and that it was Her eyes that gave him courage to endure the martyrdom.

    News of this remarkable martyrdom made it to the King of Spain and then to Pope Clement XI. The Pope ordered testimony to be taken at once, and expressed his great sorrow – although he was consoled that these Indians, so new to the Faith, died for the Holy Catholic Faith.

    The history of the Florida martyrs is a treasure and as it becomes better known, will be a tremendous blessing for this nation. Your article prompted me to write, because not only is the history itself a treasure, but so too is the effort to remember and canonize them.

    The Pope started the formal inquiry in 1705; some forty years later, the King declared a Feast Day for the Florida martyrs; countless prayers, songs devotions were made in memory of Dominican (Fr. Cancer and the protomartyrs at Tampa Bay in 1549), Jesuit (Fr Martinez, Fr Segura and Companions 1566 and 1571) , Franciscan (13 now Servants of God, including Fr Agustin, the first native born boy who became a priest then martyr) and Native American (men, women and children) Florida martyrs; Bishop Verot, first Florida bishop in the 1850’s began at once to honor the Florida martyrs; Bishop John Mark Gannon of Erie PA and his team of Catholic historians on behalf of all the US Bishops presented the Florida martyrs, along with the martyrs of the US, to Pope Pius XII before the war; Richmond and Savannah would also open their Causes of their Florida martyrs in the years that followed; Bishop Gracida would work to open the Cause of all the Florida martyrs in the early 1980’s; and now at last! The Cause is open and on fire! The ball is now in the court of the Historic Commission preparing the research needed for the Beatification.

    Perhaps those of us who work to honor the memory of the saints and martyrs may adopt Antonio’s motto, “patience and perseverance” as we carry the gratitude for their love and sacrifice in our hearts and long to share it with others.

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  4. David M. O'Rourke says:

    St. Jerome’s College in Kitchener has always be run by the Resurrectionists. My father was a student there in about 1930 and in the next generation my cousin was. St. Mary’s Church is across the street and it too has always been Resurrectionist as have been a few of the neighboring parishes in Kitchener.

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