Paulist Founder on the road to Canonization

Paulist Founder on the road to Canonization

Fr. Thomas Isaac Hecker, C.S.P., founder of the Paulist Fathers has been names a “Servant of God.” The first step in the process of canonization.

Who is Father Hecker?

Isaac Thomas Hecker was born in New York City on December 18, 1819, the third son and youngest child of John and Caroline (Freund) Hecker. Ordained a Redemptorist priest in 1849, he founded the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle in New York on July 7, 1858. The society was established to evangelize both believers and non-believers in order to convert North America to the Roman Catholic Church. Father Hecker sought to evangelize Americans using the popular means of his day, primarily preaching, the public lecture circuit and the printing press. He founded the monthly publication, “The Catholic World,” in 1865.

Father Hecker’s spirituality centered on the action of the Holy Spirit upon the soul and the need to remain attentive to the prompting of the Spirit in the great and small moments of life. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Father Hecker labored to establish a dialogue between faith and culture, which he believed would lead to an American Catholicism whose vitality and optimism would transform the world.

In the latter years of his life, Father Hecker suffered with dark nights of the soul that varied in intensity; this was combined with the physical problems of a weak heart and leukemia. While emotionally and physically overcome at moments, Father Hecker remained faithful through his sure belief in the Holy Spirit.

“God is now visiting me with the profoundest desolation of spirit. Yet I never knew that God would permit me to come so near to Him and love Him as I have,” Father Hecker wrote.

On December 22, 1888, as the Paulist community gathered around his bed in prayer, Father Hecker raised his hand, making the Sign of the Cross in blessing, and died.

The Canonization Process

by Michael Kerrigan, CSP

The following summary describes the steps involved in the canonical procedure or causes of beatification and canonization as set forth in the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister, promulgated by Pope John Paul II on January 25, 1983.

It is necessary to wait at least five years after the death of the candidate whose cause
is to be considered.

The bishop of the diocese in which the candidate died is responsible for beginning the cause. A postulator is a church official who presents a plea for beatification or canonization of a particular candidate. The postulator acts on behalf of a promoter group that has formally requested the bishop to open an investigation into the cause of the candidate. The promoter group may be a diocese, a parish, a religious congregation, or a religious association.

The process begins at the diocesan level. The bishop forms a diocesan tribunal to begin
Consideration of the proposed candidate by investigating the candidate’s life and writings for evidence of heroic virtue (the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude). Documents and information are gathered. At this stage in the process, the candidate may beg given the title Servant of God.

After the diocesan investigation is completed, the documentation is forwarded to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. A panel of theologians and cardinals from this Vatican congregation evaluates the candidate’s life. When sufficient information an evidence have been obtained, the congregation may recommend to the pope that he make a proclamation of the Servant of God’s heroic virtue and declare the candidate Venerable, meaning that he or she is a role model of Catholic virtues.

The next step, beatification, requires a miracle that has resulted from prayers to the candidate and the candidate’s subsequent intercession. An official Church investigation is done to evaluate the legitimacy of the miracle. When the miracle has been declared authentic, the candidate is given the title Blessed.

Canonization requires an additional miracle, one that can be attributed to the intercession of the Blessed after beatification. The new miracle is evaluated by the same process used for the first miracle. Once the Church confirms the authenticity of the evidence supporting the second miracle, the candidate is canonized and is given the title Saint

A Prayer for Father Isaac Thomas Hecker

Father Isaac Thomas Hecker C.S.P. (1819-1888)

Heavenly Father, you called your servant Isaac Thomas Hecker to preach the Gospel to the people of North America and through his teaching, to know the peace and the power of your indwelling Spirit. He walked in the footsteps of Saint Paul the Apostle, and like Paul spoke your Word with a zeal for souls and a burning love for all who came to him in need. Look upon us this day, with compassion and hope. Hear our prayer. We ask that through the intercession of Father Hecker your servant, you might grant us (state the request). We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. One God, forever and ever. Amen

Please report all favors received to:
Office of the Cause of Father Hecker
3015 Fourth Street N.E.
Washington D.C. 20017-110