When the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops named 12 Saints for the Year of Faith, our interest was immediately piqued. Following Pope Benedict’s encouragement to study and draw strength from the lives of the saints during this year, the USCCB has selected an impressive list of specifically American Saints, Blesseds and Venerables who serve as compelling examples of truly audacious Faith.
American Saints, Blesseds and Venerables during the Year of Faith
St. Isaac Jogues, S.J.
Jesuit priest, missionary and one of the North American martyrs
St. Isaac Jogues was born in 1607 and ordained a Jesuit priest in 1636. During the year following his ordination, Isaac saw the fulfillment of his dearest wish: to be a missionary to the Indians in New France. His first several years of missionary work among the Indians were quiet enough, but in 1641, he and a group of fellow missionaries traveled to Iroquois country. There, the missionaries were whipped, bitten, and tormented in the most barbarous ways imaginable. St. Isaac Jogues became a living martyr, watching his friends die around him and being constantly threatened by death himself. After a year of this torment, in which Isaac was able to evangelize and baptize a few of the Iroquois, a chance for escape presented itself. He boarded a Dutch ship and went back to France. This only lasted a few months, however, as his heart still longed to bring the Word of God to the Iroquois.This return mission was to be his last. Isaac foresaw this when he wrote to a fellow Jesuit, saying “My heart tells me that, if I am the one to be sent on this mission, I shall go but I shall not return. But I would be happy if our Lord wished to complete the sacrifice where he began it.” He was killed with a tomahawk in 1646, and canonized a saint in 1930 by Pope Pius XI. He is the patron saint of the Americas and Canada.
■St. Isaac Jogues and the North American Martyrs. . .
■Prayers to the Martyrs.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, M.S.C.
Missionary and founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Francis Xavier Cabrini was born into a family of thirteen children. Due to health reasons, her first request to join a religious community was refused, but she was finally able to take her vows in 1877. Soon after being named prioress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, she was urged by Pope Leo XIII to become a missionary in the United States. However, the house that had been promised to her for an orphanage was unavailable when she reached New York City, and the archbishop advised her to return to Italy. Frances departed from the archbishop’s residence all the more determined to stay and establish that orphanage. And she did. In 35 years, Frances Xavier Cabrini founded 6 institutions for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick, and organized schools and adult education classes for formation in the Catholic Faith. She died of malaria in her own Columbus Hospital in Chicago in 1917. She was the first United States Citizen to be canonized, and she is known as the patron saint of immigrants.
■St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. . .
■Prayers to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. . . .
St. John Neumann, C.Ss.R.
Missionary and 4th bishop of Philadelphia. Founded the first diocesan Catholic school system in U.S.
St. John Neumann learned pretty quickly what it meant to follow God’s will with your whole heart and soul. He was certain that he was called to be a priest, but when the time came for ordination, the bishop fell ill and the ordination was cancelled. It was never rescheduled, because there was an over-abundance of priests in Europe. Knowing he was meant to be a priest, John traveled all the way from Bohemia to New York City to be ordained. He was one of only 36 priests, serving 200,000 Catholics: his ‘parish’ stretched from Lake Ontario throughout Pennsylvania. He became the founder of the first diocesan Catholic School system, going from only two schools to one hundred schools in his diocese.To learn more:
■St. John Neumann biography and prayers. . .
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, S.C.
Founder of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. Considered founder of the Catholic School system in the US.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the charming “belle of the ball” as a young woman in New York City, linked to all the first families. At the age of 19, she fell in love and married the wealthy, handsome William Magee Seton. The two had a very happy marriage, raising five children. Ten years after they were married, William’s business and health both failed, and Elizabeth was left a poor widow with five children to raise alone. Her love for the Eucharist led her to convert to Catholicism and founded the first order of religious women in America, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, a religious community based on the Rule of St. Vincent De Paul. She was able to still raise her children, as well as live the life of a sister and found several schools. She became the co-founder of the first free Catholic School in America.
■St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. . .
■Canonization homily by Pope Paul VI. . .
■Prayer by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, R.S.C.J.
Missionary to Native Americans
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne was a passionate young woman with a heart for missionary work. She joined the Visitation nuns at the age of 19, but a few years later, convents were shut down during the French Revolution, and Rose was forced to return to life as a lay woman for many years. Ten years later, she was finally able to rejoin a convent, this time as a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart. In 1818, she was sent to the Louisiana Territory as a missionary, facing illness, hardship and hunger to bring Catholicism to the Native Americans. She opened the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi river, as well as the first Catholic school for Native Americans. She was known among the Pottawatomie Indians as the “Woman Who Prays Always.”
■St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. . .
■Prayers to St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. . .
St.Katharine Drexel, S.B.S.
School builder and founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People
When she asked Pope Leo XIII to send more missionaries to Wyoming, he asked her, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” As a young, wealthy, educated girl from Philadelphia, this was hardly the expected lifestyle for young Katharine Drexel. But raised in a devout family with a deep sympathy for the poor, Katharine gave up everything to become a missionary to the Indians and African Americans. She founded schools in thirteen states for African Americans, forty mission centers and twenty-three rural schools. She also established fifty missions for Indians in sixteen different states. She died at the age of ninety-six and was canonized in the year 2000.
■St. Katharine Drexel. . .
■Prayer to St. Katharine Drexel
St. Mother Théodore Guérin, S.P.
Missionary and founder of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods
Théodore Guérin was born October 2nd, 1784 in Etables, France. At the age of ten, she received her First Holy Communion and announced to the parish priest that she would one day be a nun. At the age of 25, she fulfilled this statement, entering the order of the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé-sur-Loir, whose mission it was to educate children and to care for the poor, sick and dying. While serving at the convent, Théodore was asked to lead a small band of missionary sisters to Indiana in the United States of America. When the sisters arrived, there was only a log cabin with a porch that served as a chapel. Though her health was suffering, Théodore fell to this new task with a will. By the time she died in 1856, Mother Théodore had opened schools in Illinois and throughout Indiana. The sisters were well-established and respected. Through illness, poverty and all manner of unwelcoming circumstances, she trusted in God’s providence and lived as a model of belief in his mercy. She was canonized in 2006, and is known as the patron saint of Indianapolis.
■St. Mother Théodore Guérin. . .
■Prayer to St. Mother Théodore Guérin. . .
St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai, SS.CC.
Missionary to the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii
St. Damien of Molokai was born in Belgium in 1840 to a poor farmer and his wife. At the age of 13, he quit school to help his parents on the farm; when he was nineteen, he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Damien’s older brother, Pamphile, was also a priest in this congregation, and had offered his service to the care of the lepers on the Island of Molokai. When he fell ill and couldn’t go to the mission, Damien volunteered to take his place. The saint offered to stay in the leper colony permanently – he built schools, churches, hospitals and coffins. He was later joined in his work by the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, led by St. Marianne Cope. St. Damien contracted the disease himself, but continued to serve the mission until his death in 1889 .
■St. Damien de Veuster. . .
■Prayers to St. Damien de Veuster. . .
St. Marianne Cope, O.S.F.
Missionary to the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii
St. Marianne Cope was a born leader. Growing up as one of the older children of a large family, she went to work in a factory right after finishing the eighth grade. She joined the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis a few years later, and began a whirlwind of leadership roles: twice as the novice mistress of her congregation, and three times as the superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. This leadership, coupled with her sympathy for mankind in general, led her to volunteer to go to Hawaii to take care of the lepers. She was finally stationed in Molokai, where she brought education and happiness to the leper colony: even providing bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women. To read more about this determined and yet charming woman, check out the websites below!
■St. Marianne Cope. . .
■Prayer to St. Marianne Cope. . .
St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Native American and consecrated virgin
Nicknames are generally silly, entertaining names given to people by affectionate relatives or friends. It’s rare to hear an enviable one. But “Lily of the Mohawks?” Now, that’s an elegant nickname. This is the nickname of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Orphaned at the age of four, she was raised by her uncle, the chief of the Mohawk village. When priests came to the village, Kateri was drawn by their teachings, and converted at the age of 19, heedless of the anger of her relatives. Because she refused to work on Sundays, she was denied meals that day. Finally, a missionary encouraged her to run away to Montreal, Canada, to practice her faith freely. She followed his advice, and lived a life of extreme prayer and penance, taking a vow of virginity. She was beatified in 1980 and canonized on October 21, 2012.
■St. Kateri Tekakwitha. . .
■Prayer to St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R.
As a child, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R. used to claim that he didn’t simply want to imitate his patron saint: he wanted to be another St.Francis Xavier. He entered the seminary in Augsburg after completing a degree in Philosophy. While there, he heard about the missionary activity of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, and traveled to North America, specifically to become a Redemptorist priest. For nine years, he worked as the assistant of St. John Neumann in the parish of St. Philomena in Pittsburgh. He dedicated himself to the mission of preaching, and, before long, he had attained a reputation as an excellent preacher and an insightful, attentive spiritual director. He was also known for a happy availability for anyone who might need him at any time. He became pastor of the church of St. Mary of the Assumption in New Orleans, and died there of yellow fever while nursing the sick during an epidemic.
■Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R.. . .
■Prayer to Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R.. . .
Blessed Junípero Serra, O.F.M.
Founder of the Spanish missions in California
As a young man in Spain, Blessed Junípero Serra joined the Franciscan order and began a short career as a professor, famous for his preaching. When he was thirty-five, he suddenly began to yearn for the life of a missionary in the New World. He left everything behind and boarded a ship bound for Vera Cruz, Mexico. On his way to Mexico City, an insect bite infected his leg so badly that walking pained him for the rest of his life. Among his many great accomplishments as a missionary are listed two particularly: It was he whose insistence and dedication brought about the “Regulation” protecting the Native Americans and the missions. He is also known for founding the great mission of San Juan Capistrano, in California. He founded 21 missions and taught the Native Americans many trades, from farming to crafting.
■Blessed Junipero Serra. . .
■Prayer to Blessed Junipero Serra
Venerable Pierre Toussaint
Haitian-born ex-slave, hairdresser and benefactor in New York
Born a slave in Haiti, Venerable Pierre Toussaint died a free and wealthy man. When he was in his early twenties, his master brought him to the United States with several other slaves, to avoid civil disturbance in Haiti. He was apprenticed to a hair dresser in New York City, becoming a favorite stylist for the ladies of the city. When his master died, he worked very hard to take care of his master’s wife – in 1807, just before her death, he was freed. He married a fellow slave and together they turned their home into a refuge for orphans and the sick, and attended daily Mass at St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street: the same parish that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton attended.
■Venerable Pierre Toussaint. . .
■Prayer to Venerable Pierre Toussaint
Venerable Fulton Sheen
Archbishop and TV Personality
A college education, a TV show and a passionate devotion to the call of the priesthood all combined in one very witty man – proof that sainthood is not only challenging and holy, but fun. Peter “Fulton” John Sheen was born in El Paso, Illinois in 1895. As a young man, he turned down a sizable scholarship to pursue his true desire, the holy priesthood of the Catholic Church. At his ordination, he made a promise that he would spend one hour a day in Eucharist Adoration – a promise he kept faithfully for the rest of his life. In 1951, the newly-appointed Bishop Sheen began a TV series entitled “Life is Worth Living.” In 1952, he won an Emmy award for “Most Outstanding Television Personality.” He was named an Archbishop in 1969, and ten years later, on October 3rd of 1979, just months before his death, Archbishop Sheen was embraced by Pope John Paul II and told, “You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You are a loyal son of the Church!”
■Venerable Fulton Sheen. . .
■Prayer for the canonization of Venerable Fulton Sheen. . .