In a press conference held on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, Father David Neuhaus, Latin Patriarchal Vicar, explains some basic facts about the canonization of Carmelite Mary of Jesus Crucified and foundress of the Sisters of the Rosary, Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, scheduled to take place in Rome on May 17, 2015.

mariam alphonsine

Canonization – What is the Church doing
when she proclaims someone a saint?

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). This commandment at the very center of the Torah of Moses recognizes that the human person has the vocation to be in the image and likeness of God, Creator and Father of humanity. In the long history of humanity that stretches from creation to the Second Coming of Christ, there are those who shine with this holiness, showing their brothers and sisters, the way back to God our Father.

Christians believe that this holiness, in the image of God’s holiness, reached its ultimate peak in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah and Son of God. He is “the Holy One of God”, radiating God’s holiness to all who believe in him. We are all called to walk in his ways because God, our Creator sees in Jesus his first born son and seeks, through Jesus, to regain us all as His children who live holy lives.

The process of recognizing a person as a saint is ancient, going back to the earliest generations of Christians. Over the centuries, the Church has instituted a multiple stage process, often taking many years, whereby experts examine the life and teaching of exemplary Christians, slowly discerning their virtues and recognizing them as examples for all Christians in their attempt to live holy lives and faithfully follow Jesus.

When the official process begins, the candidate is named a Servant of God. With the recognition of heroic virtue, he or she is declared Venerable. The next step is beatification, usually only after recognizing that the candidate has died as a martyr or that a miracle has been performed through his or her intercession. The final step is canonization – the proclamation of sainthood and adding the name of the saint to the list of saints venerated in the Church. This is usually after the recognition of another miracle.

On May 17, 2015, two religious women, Catholic Palestinian Arabs, born in the middle of the 19th century, will be proclaimed “saints” in Rome. These two women, Mariam Bawardy and Mary-Alphonsine Ghattas, have been recognized by the Church as models for all Christians by the holiness of their lives and their service of the Church.

Mariam Bawardy (1846-1878) was born to a Greek Catholic family in the village of Ibilin in Galilee in 1846. After a very difficult childhood and youth and much suffering, she was attracted to the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition. However, she entered the Carmelite monastery in Pau, France and took the name Mary of Jesus Crucified. She was active in establishing Carmelite monasteries in India and in Bethlehem. She died at the age of 33 in 1878 in the Bethlehem monastery before plans to establish another Carmel monastery in Nazareth could be completed. The cause of canonization started in 1927 but she was only proclaimed venerable in 1981. Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 13 November 1983.

Marie Alphonsine Ghattas (1843-1927), was born in Jerusalem and took her vows as a religious in the Congregation of Saint Joseph of the Apparition in 1862. After being visited in apparitions by the Virgin Mary, she understood that she had been chosen for a special mission: she was to found a new congregation of Arab women religious, serving the Church in the Holy Land and devoted to the prayer of the Rosary. Pope John Paul II acknowledged her heroic virtues in 1994, and in 1995 she was proclaimed "Venerable". On November 22, 2009, she was beatified in Nazareth.