Dorothy Day Canonization Process Enters New Stage

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The Cause for Dorothy Day’s possible eventual beatification and canonization has moved into a new phase as Cardinal Dolan recently opened the canonical inquiry on the life of the Catholic Worker movement founder, gathering evidence to determine if Dorothy Day lived a life of “heroic virtue” in the eyes of the Church.

Cardinal Dolan ushered in the new phase during an early afternoon assembly April 19 at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan. Members of the Dorothy Day Guild and cause attended.

Expressing his joy in working on the cause, Cardinal Dolan said, “It’s a tribute to God’s grace and mercy.”

Father Raymond M. Rafferty, retired pastor of Corpus Christi parish in Manhattan, was sworn in as the archbishop’s delegate.

He will be responsible for interviewing numerous people who knew Ms. Day. “I’ve got quite a task—of interviewing some fairly formidable people,” he said.

“I am very pleased to be part of this process and to see it formally begin,” he also said.

Also taking oaths for their respective roles were Cardinal Dolan and Father Richard L. Welch, C.Ss.R., the archdiocese’s judicial vicar who is promoter of justice for the diocesan inquiry.

Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Ms. Day, was also present. “I’m happy we’re moving along on this process,” she said. “I trust that Cardinal Dolan will help steer things the way they need to be steered.”

Her grandmother, she said, “wants us all to become saints—that’s what’s important for us to remember.”

The archdiocese, which is sponsoring Ms. Day’s cause, is in the process of gathering the evidence to present to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints and Pope Francis. After carefully examining the information presented, the congregation and pope will determine if Ms. Day will be elevated from “Servant of God” to “Venerable,” and become eligible for beatification and ultimately canonization.

A few years after her death in 1980 at age 83, the Claretian Fathers began collecting materials for an eventual canonization effort. In 2000, at the request of Cardinal John O’Connor, the Vatican provided its nihil obstat, naming Dorothy Day “Servant of God” and opening the canonization process.

Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, vicar general and chancellor of the archdiocese, was named postulator, or chief advocate, for the Cause of Canonization. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops provided its formal endorsement in 2012.

Interviews of eyewitnesses, people who had firsthand experience of Ms. Day, began this week and will extend throughout 2016. “Together, their memories stretch all the way back to the 1940s,” Msgr. Mustaciuolo said.

Those too frail to travel will be interviewed in their home dioceses, some as far away as Europe. Because many of the eyewitnesses still live in voluntary poverty, caring for the poor, the archdiocese will assist with airfare and lodging for those requesting assistance.

In the coming months, Cardinal Dolan will appoint a historical commission that will issue a report placing Ms. Day’s life in historical context and review her unpublished writings. Theological experts appointed by the cardinal will review her published writings—two readers for each publication—with an eye toward doctrine and morals.

“This will require a team effort,” said George B. Horton, liaison for the Dorothy Day Guild. “Dorothy Day created or inspired dozens of houses of hospitality throughout the English-speaking world, but she was also a journalist who published The Catholic Worker newspaper. Her articles in that paper alone total over 3,000 pages. Add her books and other publications and we will probably surpass 8,000 pages of manuscripts.”

“I thank you all for your perseverance and your patience,” Cardinal Dolan told those assembled who are assisting with the cause.

Information: dorothydayguild.org.

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