Dear Brothers and Sisters,
A while back I wrote how American Church History was one of the most interesting class that I took while in the Seminary. As this weekend we celebrate Independence Day, I would like to bring some historical figures from our faith who have contributed to the birth and development of our country.
Before the first shots were fired on the Independence War, we had great people who set the foundations of our country by loving one another as God has loved us. Holy men like Isaac Jogues, John Brebeuf, were some of the first ones to bring the Gospel to the Northeast at the beginning of the XVII Century. Their work bore fruits very quickly, and more saints quickly appeared. Before the end of the Century, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha instructed by other Jesuits decided to follow Christ and love Him wholeheartedly by migrating North to Canada and entering a convent.
Right before the Declaration of independence, we have St Junipero Serra who established the first Franciscan missions in San Diego (de Alcala). This was the first of nine missions that he himself established on the West Coast, later earning the name of Apostle of California. Many missions later became very important cities, such as San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Clara. We know that many more missions were established in the Southwest of the US.
With the establishment of the United States of America, the first bishop was assigned to lead the Catholics in the new country. Ordained as a Jesuit on 1765, John Carrol was prominent leader among Catholics and on 1784 was named by the Vatican the first Bishop of Baltimore in Maryland. Before his death in 1815, the US had grown into 5 Dioceses. Under the counseling of John Carrol, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton converts into Catholicism and founds the first religious order in the US. The sisters of Charity were responsible for the creation of many Catholic centers of education that favored many women and other unprivileged people.
Born in Germany and sent to Buffalo to minister to the German Catholics, Saint John Neumann was one of many Catholics who served and helped the immigrants in the US. In 1852 he was named the bishop of Philadelphia. There he advocated for parochial education and the construction of church buildings. Another person who served many immigrants was St. Frances Cabrini. With a desire to go to the far East, St. Frances founded a congregation on 1880 in Italy and was commissioned by the Pope not to the East, but to the West. She arrived in New York on 1889 and ministered to the large numbers of Italians as they arriving each day from Europe. The work of Mother Cabrini spread quickly throughout the US and even abroad. In 1946 she was the first American Citizen to be declared a saint.
There are still many more men and women who have tirelessly promoted the Gospel and set examples of charity in the US. Now is up to us, to continue building the Kingdom of God, to continue the work of love and service to one another. Saints Fr. McGivney and Katherine Drexel, along with Blessed Fulton Sheen, have fought their battles and kept the faith. Let us ask that the Lord may help us to remain faithful to Him, so that we may keep living as one nation under God!
Father Steven Clemence