Five New Saints

On Sunday, October 19th, Pope Francis declared John Henry Newman, Mother Giuseppina Vannini, Mother Mariam Thresia Mankidiyan, Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes, and Marguerite Bays Catholic saints. In the west I suspect John Henry Newman is the best known, but here is the briefest of resumes of all five Saints. Of the new saints, one is the first woman born in Brazil; another is from Kerala, India. Five were priests or members of a religious order; one was a Swiss lay woman.

Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890): Theologian, literary figure, and founder of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England. He was the first Anglican to become a Catholic priest and cardinal and is the first English person to be made a saint in almost 50 years. Newman’s beatification was officially proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and his canonization was officially approved by Pope Francis earlier this year.

Mother Giuseppina Vannini (1859-1911): Founder of the Daughters of Saint Camillus, she is the first Roman woman to be canonized in more than 400 years. The main legacy the foundress left her sisters was the pure and simple physical and spiritual care of the sick, exercised at home as in hospitals, leprosariums and nursing homes, both in European rehabilitation centers and in mission countries.

Mother Mariam Thresia Mankidiyan (1876-1926): Mystic, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family (CHF) in Kerala, India. She spent her entire life assisting the poor, the sick, the elderly and all those in need, and was invoked as protector of families in difficulty and intercessor of couples who do not have children. She was beatified on April 9, 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes (1914-1992): The first woman born in Brazil to become a saint. She is known as St. Dulce of the Poor for caring for the poorest of the poor in her convent’s chicken yard in Salvador, Bahia. More than 3,000 people visit the same site every day (where the Santo Antônio Hospital now stands) to receive free medical treatment. At the time of her death in 1992, Sister Dulce had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Marguerite Bays (1815-1879): Stigmatist and 19th-century Swiss laywoman. While she never entered a religious order, she dedicated her life to prayer and service to her parish community. After her death the Vatican approved a miracle attributed to her intercession in which a 2-year-old child was completely healed after being run over by a 1,800-lb tractor wheel. 

How many saints have been canonized by Pope Francis? Pope Francis has declared 838 people to be Saints. While that number might seem inordinately high, the first declaration was St. Antonio Primaldo and his 813 companion martyrs (also known as the Martyrs of Otranto). They were inhabitants of the Otranto in southern Italy who were killed on 14 August 1480 when the city fell to an Ottoman force under Gedik Ahmed Pasha. Some 12,000 people were slain (men older than 15, small children, and infants). Women and young girls were taken and sold into slavery. 813 able bodied men were told to convert to Islam or die. A tailor named Antonio Primaldi is said to have proclaimed “Now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for the Lord. And since he died on the cross for us, it is fitting that we should die for him.” He was the first beheaded.

A canonical process began in 1539. On 14 December 1771 Pope Clement XIV beatified those martyred; The declaration of their sainthood was May 12, 2013.

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