USCCB vote moves Father Ryan a step toward sainthood

By Jim Wogan

U.S. bishops gathering at their annual fall General Assembly in Baltimore in November approved the canonical consultation of four causes for beatification and canonization, including the cause for Servant of God Father Patrick Ryan, a diocesan priest who served in Chattanooga in the late 1800s.

Bishop Richard F. Stika made his case for Father Ryan’s cause at the meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Nov. 15. By voice vote, the bishops supported moving the case for Father Ryan’s canonization forward.

Episcopal consultation is a step in the Catholic Church’s process toward declaring a person a saint.

Bishop Stika initiated the Cause for Sainthood for Father Ryan on June 14 after Father David Carter, rector at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga, and Deacon Gaspar DeGaetano met with Vatican officials in March. The Vatican has encouraged the effort, although any official pronouncement on sainthood could be years away.

“Presenting Father Ryan’s cause to the full assembly of bishops is part of the formal process in moving someone toward sainthood. I am looking forward to making my brother bishops aware of Father Ryan’s act of martyrdom. Even though it happened many years ago, Father Ryan’s work administering to the sick exemplifies charity and selflessness and reminds us of how we should serve others,” Bishop Stika said.

The Diocese of Knoxville considers Father Ryan a martyr of charity for his work serving victims of the yellow fever epidemic in Chattanooga in the late 19th century. Father Ryan eventually contracted the illness and died on Sept. 28, 1878.

In addition to Father Ryan, the candidates for sainthood are Julia Greeley, a former slave who lived in Colorado; Sister Blandina Segale, a Sister of Charity who served on the frontier; and Monsignor Bernard Quinn, who fought bigotry and established a black church and orphanage in Brooklyn.

Five years must pass from the time of a candidate’s death before a sainthood cause may begin. The bishop of the diocese or eparchy in which the person died is responsible for beginning the examination into the candidate’s life. The local bishop consults bishops in his region on the advisability of pursuing the cause. A canonical consultation with the body of bishops is part of the process.

Materials and documentation supporting the cause must be gathered. Once completed, the documentation is sent to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Three major steps come next: being deemed “Venerable,” then “Blessed,” and finally canonization. ■

Click here for video of Bishop Stika speaking at the meeting of the USCCB.

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