I have spent much of this past week (10/19-10/26) in Rome to attend the canonization of seven new saints. It was very fitting that the Holy Father chose Mission Sunday as the date for the canonization of these new saints who epitomized the Church's mission to evangelize in various aspects. Two of the new saints are Americans. Sister Marianne Cope, though she was born in Germany, came to New York when she was one-year-old. She joined the Franciscan Sisters there and then went to work for many years in the leper colony in Molokai, Hawaii. She worked alongside St. Damien of Molikai and, in fact, cared for him when he was dying.
The other American saint is, of course, St. Kateri Tekakwitha. There was great enthusiasm from many quarters for her canonization as the first Native American saint. Because she spent part of her life in New York and part of her life in Canada, there were contingents from both the U.S. and Canada in Rome.
Masses of Thanksgiving and celebrations
... The following day (10/22), there were two Masses of thanksgiving. One was celebrated by the Canadian bishops in French at the Basilica of St. John Lateran and the other was at St. Peter's Basilica. In St. Peter's, Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany preached the homily and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was the principal celebrant. Archbishop Chaput's mother was a Pottawatomie Indian and he is very proud of his Native American heritage. So, it was very fitting that he would be invited to preside at that Mass. After the Mass, I was happy to greet a number of people at the reception at the North American College for the 700 pilgrims who were there from the states.
Msgr. Lance is one of the people most responsible for promoting the cause of sainthood of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, so it was wonderful that he could be present at the canonization to see the fruits of all of his labor. He was a missionary in Paraguay and later became director of the Black and Indian Mission Office. When I was Bishop in the Virgin Islands we were very blessed to have his help with many programs. His service to the Church has been invaluable.