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Young people at the Youth Event in Yonkers, April 19, will give Pope Benedict pictures of six U.S. saints or saints-to-be
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Elizabeth Bayley was born into a wealthy, Episcopalian, New York family in 1774. She married William Magee Seton in 1794. They had three daughters and two sons. By 1801, Williams business had failed and so had his health. To aid in his recovery, William, Elizabeth, and their eldest daughter traveled to Italy in 1803. William died shortly after arriving. While in Italy, Elizabeth lived with a Catholic family and spent much time visiting various Catholic churches. After returning to New York, Elizabeth decided to become a Catholic. She was received into full communion with the Catholic Church on March 4, 1805.
To support her family, she decided to open a school. She received an invitation from Bishop John Carroll to start a school for girls near St. Marys Seminary in Baltimore. Establishing this school led her to found the American Sisters of Charity and laid the basis for the United States Catholic school system. She provided free education for the poor while also accepting tuition from those who could afford it. Mother Seton also founded orphanages in Philadelphia and New York. Her grandson (James Roosevelt Bayley) was the Archbishop of Baltimore from 1872-1877. Elizabeth Ann Seton died in 1821. She was canonized in 1975 as the first native-born North American saint.
Saint John Neumann
Born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1811, John Neopomucene Neumann (pronounced Noy-man) studied at the seminary at Budweis and the University of Prague. He graduated with honors from the university in 1835, at the age of twenty-four. While he was at the seminary, he acquired an interest in the United States. After his graduation, he emigrated to New York, where Bishop John Dubois ordained him to the priesthood in 1836. He was sent to the missions of upper and western New York State. Four years later, he entered the Redemptorist Order. In 1847 he became a citizen of the United States. He became the superior of the Redemptorist house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then provincial of the congregation.
In 1852 Father Neumann was named the fourth bishop of Philadelphia. In just eight years as bishop of Philadelphia, he increased the number of parochial schools from two to nearly one hundred, oversaw the building of fifty new churches, and founded a preparatory seminary. He was the first bishop in the United States to encourage the Forty Hours Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He wrote two catechisms, a Bible history, and a number of pastoral letters. He could speak eight languages and several Slavic dialects and learned Gaelic so he could minister to immigrants from western Ireland. While on his way to minister to the sick at a hospital, he collapsed from sheer exhaustion on the street and died in 1860. He was canonized a saint in 1977.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
Frances Cabrini was born in Italy in 1850. Though she felt called to religious life, no congregation would accept her because of her poor health. In 1877, she founded a new congregation, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Within a few years, she and her sisters had opened six orphanages. In 1889, she obtained an audience with Pope Leo XIII, asking him to support her desire to open a mission in China. Pope Leo directed her to go to America and work among the Italian immigrants there. In New York City, she opened Catholic schools and built an orphanage. She founded the first Columbus Hospital, which relied on the donated services of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish doctors. The hospital had free wards for the poor and private rooms for the rich, whose fees helped finance the care of the poor. She built other Columbus hospitals in Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, New Orleans, and Chicago. She continued to visit the various convents and institutions she founded in Europe, Brazil, and Argentina. When she died in 1917, she left behind sixty-seven convents in Europe, the United States, and South America and 1,500 Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. She had become a citizen of the United States in 1909. In 1946, she became the first American citizen to be canonized a saint.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 at Ossernenon, a Mohawk village in what is now Auriesville, New York. She was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and a Christian Algonquin woman who had come to live among the Mohawks after being captured at Trois Rivieres, Quebec. Kateri was four years old when her parents and little brother died of smallpox. Kateri also contracted the disease, which disfigured her face. Two aunts and an uncle adopted her. The family moved to Caughnawaga, now Fonda, New York.
When she was in her teens, Jesuit missionaries came to her village. She was attracted to Catholicism but experienced the opposition of her family and the tribe. Fr. James de Lamberville began to meet with her regularly, teaching her the faith. She was baptized at the age of twenty and given the name Catherine, or Kateri in the Mohawk language. The villagers showed so much hostility to her newfound faith that she decided to go to a Christian colony of Indians near Montreal. She spent the remaining years of her life there in prayer, penance, and care for the aged and sick. She died on April 7, 1680. Witnesses testified that the smallpox scars on her face vanished. Pope John Paul II beatified her (declared her blessed) in 1980. She is the first North American Indian to be beatified.
Venerable Pierre Touissant
Pierre Toussaint was born in Haiti in 1766 and raised as a slave. Baptized and raised a Catholic, Toussaint was a house slave. He was treated humanely by the Berard family and came with them to New York when they fled a slave rebellion in 1789. Berard assigned Pierre as an apprentice to one of the citys leading hairdressers. Pierre was a great success at this profession and he was allowed to keep a portion of his earnings. The Berards lost their property and source of income due to unrest in Haiti. After Mr. Berards death, Toussaint took over the support of Mrs. Berard and the household. In gratitude, she freed him from his slave status, after which he married Juliette Noel. He used his considerable income to support charitable causes. He conducted a fundraising
effort among his rich clients of differing religious persuasions to build a Catholic orphanage. He ministered personally to victims of a plague. He labored to dispel religious and racial prejudice in the city. Pierre worked up to the last two years of his life before dying at age eighty-seven in 1853. He was buried with his wife Juliette and niece Euphemia in Old St. Patricks cemetery on Mott Street in New York. Pope John Paul II declared him Venerable in December 1996. Since then his body has been reburied in the crypt of the archbishops in St. Patricks Cathedral in New York City.
Padre Felix Varela
Father Varela was born in Cuba in 1788. Exiled from Cuba for the promotion of independence from Spain and the abolition of slavery, he became the first Spanish-speaking priest to serve in the diocese of New York. Father Varela founded Transfiguration Church on Mott Street where he remained as pastor until his death in 1853. He founded nurseries and orphanages, organized the New York Catholic Temperance Union, and ministered to victims of the cholera outbreak in 1832. In addition, he founded the first Spanish language newspaper in the United States. Originally a university educator, Father Varela was noted for his writings on philosophy, law, religious tolerance, and human rights. Bishop John Dubois appointed Father Varela as vicar general and as his representative to the First Provincial Council in Baltimore in 1829. Father Varela died in Saint Augustine, FL in 1853. In 1997, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor.
Sources: United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, the Archdiocese of New York, the United States Postal Service