7 Inspiring Americans Waiting to Be Canonized Saints
The United States of America doesn't have a rich tradition of saints compared to other countries. Yet it is so intriguing to discover that over 70 American-born men and women from all backgrounds, both religious and laity, are being recognized for their heroic virtue. Some are at the beginning stages of what is known as Servants of God, meaning the Vatican has acknowledged their virtue and accepts their cause for canonization. Next is the title of Venerable, and Blessed comes with one approved miracle, followed by a second approved miracle for a full title of Saint.
Each of the following men and women are examples of what we are all called to become: saints. It’s not impossible for us. As we can determine from their lives of overcoming hurdles and poverty and sickness and persecution, we, too, can discover God’s call for our lives today.
Venerable Fulton J. Sheen
One of the most beloved modern American public figures in Catholicism, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen was most known for his excellence in evangelism through radio and television throughout the 1930s and into the 1970s. Beginning with The Catholic Hour radio program, Ven. Sheen discussed the abomination of World War II and denounced the evils of Hitler’s rule. It is believed that he received thousands of letters weekly during this period of his life.
In the early 1950s, Ven. Sheen began his prime time television series Life Is Worth Living, which reached countless Americans with stories of inspiration and encouragement in their encouragement in their faith journeys. Perhaps what is most notable about Ven. Sheen was his keen ability to draw home very important tenets of the Catholic faith in such a way that modern Americans could relate and yet be drawn to increased holiness. He is the notable author of several books, as well.
The cause for his canonization is complicated, however. Although a miracle has been approved for his beatification, it has been suspended indefinitely for now, in part due to a disagreement between the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Peoria, IL about where his bodily remains should be exhumed and examined.
Venerable William Gagnon
A New Hampshire native, Venerable William Gagnon (1905–1972) encountered several obstacles to his desire for religious life but nevertheless persevered in his pursuit of a vocation. As a young boy, he helped work in the cotton mills with his brothers in order to supplement the family’s income.
As a young man, he applied for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate but was refused entry due to a diagnosed kidney condition. Undaunted, he read about St. John of God, who founded the Brothers Hospitallers to care for the sick and wounded, and it was in that congregation where he found his life’s calling.
At first, his journey into religious life was halted when his father underwent a medical crisis, but he carried onward and eventually assumed the religious habit as a brother. Shortly thereafter, he directed a school with the Brothers Hospitallers in Canada, yet dreamt of one day becoming a missionary.
That dream became a reality when he volunteered to travel to Vietnam in 1950. It was there he became the prior of the congregation’s new presence, and he cared for the wounded war victims in a military hospital south of Hanoi. Pope Francis declared him a Venerable on December 14, 2015.
Blessed Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M. Cap.
A truly humble saint-in-the-making, Blessed Solanus Casey has become widely known throughout the United States because of his recent beatification and because of his simple spirituality and sanctity. Born to Irish immigrants, he grew up in Wisconsin and intended to marry but never did. Eventually, he considered a call to the religious life and chose the Capuchin order of Franciscans.
Father Solanus was barely ordained to the priesthood, mainly because he found the seminary studies to be very difficult. Some of his biographers speculated it was because of the language barrier – he being Irish and the studies being mainly in German and Latin. Regardless, it was truly God’s will that Blessed Solanus be ordained, but he was to remain a simplex priest, unable to hear confessions or deliver homilies.
Blessed Solanus initially became well known as a porter. People flocked to see him on a daily basis while he was the official greeter at the Detroit location of St. Bonaventure Monastery. His gentle, yet persuasive manner with people of all walks of life drew countless people away from sin and toward conversion, and his intercession also led to many inexplicable healings.
A confirmed miracle of healing occurred in 2012 to a woman who was cured of a genetic skin condition. Only two days later, Pope Francis moved ahead with the beatification of Blessed Solanus, and he is now only one step away from canonization.
Venerable Michael James McGivney
Father McGivney grew up in humble conditions, like many saints. Born to Irish immigrants, he was one of thirteen children and worked at a young age to support the family financially. In fact, he had to halt his seminary studies for a time in order to help raise his younger siblings following his father’s death in 1873.
Because of his firsthand knowledge and experience of the oppression of immigrant families, he founded the Knights of Columbus with a handful of parishioners while pastoring at a parish in New Haven, CT. The intention was to offer financial help to widows and orphans, no doubt inspired by the death of his own father. The Knights of Columbus is now the largest Catholic fraternal order in the world.
In 2008, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI acknowledged Father McGivney’s heroic virtue and declared him a Venerable. In 2013, a miracle reported to have resulted from Father McGivney’s intercession is currently under investigation at the Vatican.
Servant of God Mother Maria Adelaida O’Sullivan
Baptized an Anglican, Mother Maria (1817–1893) chose to become a Catholic when she was just a young girl. At age 23, she joined the Visitation Nuns but then stumbled upon the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and became enchanted with her spirituality. As a result, she pursued a religious vocation as a Discalced Carmelite and was elected prioress of the community in 1868, despite opposition from progressive reformers.
She was known for her humility and charity to others, as well as her simple but pure faith in God. Part of her change from the Visitation nuns to the Carmelites involved mystical visions of St. Teresa of Avila, who beckoned her to join the community. She consulted with her spiritual director, who advised her to listen and confirmed the validity of such visions.
Her cause for canonization continues to be under investigation.
Servant of God Julia Greeley
Known as the Angel of Charity in Denver, CO, Julia Greeley was born into slavery in Missouri sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. Her right eye was destroyed by a whip from a slave driver, but she continued her life’s calling with compassion and forgiveness.
Julia traveled throughout the United States to work for white families but ended up in the Denver area. It was there she began distributing food, clothing, and other necessities to poor families, often begging for items that people needed. She was known as a “one-person St. Vincent de Paul Society,” likely due to her Vincentian spirit.
She converted to Catholicism in 1880 and was acclaimed by the Jesuits at her parish for her zeal and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She eventually became a Secular Franciscan. It wasn’t long after she died in 1918 that people began asking for her cause for canonization to be investigated. Finally, in 2016, that wish was granted by Pope Francis.
Servant of God Cora Evans
A convert to Catholicism from Mormonism, Cora Evans was a devoted wife and mother who became a deep modern mystic who saw a vision of the Blessed Mother when she was only three years old. It wasn’t until she was older that she understood the vision, however. Interestingly, it was while Cora lay sick in bed that her conversion began. Monsignor Duane Hunt was on the radio, and she was too infirm to get up to change the station.
She was so inspired by what she heard that she contacted her local priest upon her recovery, and her husband and children converted to Catholicism alongside her. Despite their persecution from their former Mormon community, the Evans family were steadfast in their devotion to the fullness of the Faith. They eventually moved to California, and it was there where Cora received visions of heaven and the angels and saints.
Guided by a Jesuit spiritual director, Cora recorded many of her mystical experiences in writing and was given the gift of the stigmata. Her cause for canonization officially opened in 2012.