Cause for Beatification for founding Maryknoll Bishop

Bishop James A Walsh

Bishop James A Walsh

The Maryknoll Society, who are currently celebrating their centenary year have another cause to rejoice now, with the opening of the cause for beatification of Maryknoll Society co-founder Bishop James A Walsh.

On 9 November, at the Archdiocese of New York in New York City, the cause for beatification and canonization of Bishop Walsh was formally opened by the diocesan tribunal led by Monsignor Douglas Mathers. Receiving official approval from the Vatican to begin, the procedure now is formally in place to pursue the cause for beatification of Bishop Walsh in the Archdiocese of New York.

Attendees at the ceremony included Fr Edward M Dougherty, superior general of the Maryknoll Society who has served the mission of the Church in Africa. All official witnesses took their oaths on the Bible to discharge their respective obligations with integrity and honesty.

The next steps in the process include:

 *   Obtaining formal witness testimony.

Since few people today actually met Bishop Walsh, who died during 1936, his cause is considered, technically, an "historical" cause. Most evidence will be textual. Witnesses to be called will be faithful Catholics willing to testify as to their belief in Bishop Walsh's reputation for sanctity and heroic virtue.

A second class of witnesses will be divided into groups of historians and theologians. Historians are charged with gathering and guaranteeing the authenticity of any documentation on the life, works and faith of Bishop Walsh that includes all published and unpublished writings. They will submit reports about his writings along with a biographical sketch. The theologians will examine the papers and then issue reports verifying the integrity of the candidate and absence of any defect of faith and morals.

 *   Documentation delivered to Rome.

Once the cause is complete at the diocesan level, all documentation will be delivered to Rome for the second phase of the process. Reports and documentation again will be examined. Further documentation, including any possible testimony of miraculous intervention, will be gathered.

 *   Prayers and inquiries of others.

During the process, anyone interested in the cause of Bishop Walsh is welcome to inquire about him at Maryknoll, offer pertinent faith experience and offer prayers of support of the cause, and, especially, of the mission of the Church to which Bishop Walsh dedicated his life.

About Bishop Walsh

James Walsh was born to middle-class parents (James Walsh and Hanna Shea) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on February 24, 1867. After attending public elementary school, he graduated from Boston College High School with skills in debating and journalism. He attended Boston College but later transferred to Harvard College to study bookkeeping. Studies were completed at St John's Seminary in nearby Brighton.

At the seminary, Father Walsh was inspired by a rector, a Sulpician (a society of secular priests founded during 15th century France) whose classmate in Paris, Theophane Venard, had died as a famous martyr in Indochina. A decade after his 1892 ordination at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Father Walsh retraced Venard's steps in France along with those of other French martyrs, and he became convinced that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.

Father Walsh served as curate at St. Patrick's Church in Roxbury until he was appointed diocesan director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith during 1903. Among his responsibilities was to raise money to support overseas mission, and during this time, he began to develop his vision, a modernized version of mission, for a mature US Church that was eager to fulfill exciting and joyful missionary responsibilities around the world.

Along with the Catholic Foreign Mission Bureau, Father Walsh founded The Field Afar magazine, a monthly publication about the foreign missions of the Catholic Church. Years later, this magazine would become the Maryknoll magazine that continues to be published today (along with its bilingual counterpart Revista Maryknoll) by the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

During 1910, at the 21st Eucharistic Conference in Montreal, Fr Walsh shared his vision of US Catholic mission with Fr Thomas Frederick Price of North Carolina. Realizing they shared a common call to mission, the urbane Fr Walsh and the more rural Father Price collaborated on plans for a mission society within the US Catholic Church. Soon after, the bishops of the United States formally sanctioned the pursuit of their vision to recruit, send and support US missioners around the world.

With this approval, Fr Walsh and Fr Price traveled to Rome to present their vision of mission. They received the blessing of Pope Pius X on June 29, 1911 (the feast of Saints Peter and Paul), which is the founding day of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America that, over the years, has become more well-known as Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

Fr Walsh was a model priest and a natural leader. He was the first Superior General of the Society, the treasurer, the editor of its publication, rector of the seminary, spiritual director of the Maryknoll Sisters that was formed during 1912, along with master organizer, fundraiser, publicist and overseer of plans and building for the Society. It is difficult to find any aspect of the foundation of Maryknoll that did not benefit from the direction and oversight of Father Walsh.

Fr Walsh's contributions to the Catholic Church in the US and to the growth of mission were celebrated when he was ordained as bishop on June 29, 1933 by Pope Pius XI in Rome. Only a few years later, on April 14, 1936, Bishop Walsh passed away.

Causes have also been established for Maryknoll co-founder Fr Thomas F Price (pending) and for Maryknoll Father Vincent R Capodanno.

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