LIVES OF HOLINESS
Pierre was born in Haiti and brought to New York City as a slave, where he died a free man.
Bérard, the plantation owner and Pierre's master, allowed Pierre's 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 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. He also raised funds to build the original St. Patrick's Cathedral and St. Vincent de Paul Church.
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. Perhaps his favorite charity was St. Patrick's Orphan Asylum, an institution that he often visited. 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.”
In recognition of Pierre Toussaint's virtuous life, the late Cardinal Terence Cooke introduced Pierre's cause for canonization at the Vatican in 1968. In December 1989, the late Cardinal O'Connor had the remains of Pierre Toussaint transferred from Lower Manhattan to St. Patrick's Cathedral in midtown Manhattan where he is buried as the only lay person, alongside the former Cardinal-Archbishops of New York City. On December 17, 1997, Pope John Paul II declared Pierre Toussaint, Venerable, thus placing him firmly on the road to becoming North America's first black saint.
Henriette Delille, was born in 1812 in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a free woman of color. At 24 years of age, Henriette experienced a religious conversion and proclaimed: "I believe in God. I hope in God. I love. I want to live and die for God."
Henriette eventually founded the Society of the Holy Family, responding to the need for treatment of the enslaved, elderly and sick, and care and education for the poor.
Henriette received tribute for her life's work in these words from her obituary, “ . . . (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.”
Archbishop Philip M. Hannan began the canonization process for Henriette DeLille in 1988. A special commission in Rome gave approval in 1988 after a review process. In 2004 a biography of her life, written by Fr. Cyprian Davis, OSB, was published.
The Canonization process is comprised of four phases: Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed and Saint. As of this time, an alleged miracle attributed to Henriette is being tried in a Catholic Tribunal, and the decree of judicial validity was issued in the investigation of her life, virtues, and reputation of sanctity. Henriette was bestowed with the title of Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
Servant of God
Mother Mary Lange
She was born Elizabeth Lange in 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, 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.
William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, opened a formal investigation into Mother Lange's life and works of charity in 1991. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine for the Causes of Saints approved the cause of her sainthood in 2004, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore celebrated a canonical celebration at the transfer and blessing of Mother Lange’s remains. The faithful venerated the relics before they were sealed in a reliquary and sarcophagus in the chapel’s oratory. The sarcophagus cannot be reopened without Vatican permission. Also present at the celebration were Bishop John H. Ricard, bishop emeritus of Pensacola-Tallahassee, and Xaverian Brother Reginald Cruz, vice postulator for Mother Lange’s cause for sainthood.
If the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints approves thepositio being written by Brother Cruz, Mother Lange, currently considered a “Servant of God,” would be given the title “Venerable.” A confirmed miracle attributed to her intercession would then be necessary for her beatification, and a second miracle would be necessary for her canonization.
Father Augustus Tolton
Augustus was born to two slaves, Peter Paul Tolton and his wife Martha Jane, on 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. His first assignment was Saint Joseph’s church in his hometown of Quincy, where he served for two years and gained enormous respect from many of the German and Irish parishioners. 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. He addressed the First Catholic Colored Congress in Washington DC in 1889.
In 2015, the Cause for Canonization of Fr. Augustus Tolton, begun in 2010, received affirmation of the juridical validity of the Archdiocesan inquiry into his life and virtues by the Congregation for Causes of Saints, and Fr. Tolton received the distinction of Servant of God.
Servant of God
Servant of God Julia Greeley
The Process of Canonization
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 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.
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.
To the present day many people have been asking that her cause be considered for canonization, a request which was finally granted in the Fall of 2016. As part of the Cause for Canonization, Julia’s mortal remain were transferred to Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on
June 7, 2017.
Servant of God
Sister Thea Bowman
Born December 29, 1937, in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Thea was reared as a Protestant until at age nine when she asked her parents if she could become a Catholic.
Gifted with a brilliant mind, beautiful voice and a dynamic personality, Sister Thea shared the message of God's love through a teaching career. After 16 years of teaching, at the elementary, secondary and university level, the bishop of Jackson, Mississippi, invited her to become the consultant for intercultural awareness.
In her role as consultant Sister Thea, an African-American, gave presentations across the country; lively gatherings that combined singing, gospel preaching, prayer and storytelling. Her programs were directed to break down racial and cultural barriers. She encouraged people to communicate with one another so that they could understand other cultures and races.
In 1984, Sr. Thea was diagnosed with breast cancer. She prayed "to live until I die." Her prayer was answered, and Thea continued her gatherings seated in a wheelchair. In 1989, the U.S. bishops invited her to be a key speaker at their conference on Black Catholics. At the end of the meeting, at Thea's invitation, the bishops stood and sang "We Shall Overcome" with gusto.
Thea lived a full life. She fought evil, especially prejudice, suspicion, hatred and things that drive people apart. She fought for God and God's people until her death in 1990.