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Faith of old can fuel faith of today

TheAmericanCatholicAlmanac_printWhile many recognize the name of Bishop Joseph Machebeuf, Colorado’s pioneer shepherd, author Emily Stimpson recently shared why he is one of her favorites when it comes to the history of the Church in America.

“He actually reminds me of a yellow Labrador,” Stimpson, co-author of “The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States,” told the Denver Catholic. “He had so much love for people, and so much enthusiasm, and he was so loyal. Wherever he went, wherever he got sent, he would embrace it wholeheartedly (saying) ‘Alright, these are my people, I’m loving them. Now these are my people.'”

Father Machebeuf, originally from the mountains of France, was transferred to Colorado in 1860. He spent most of the next 29 years traveling through Colorado’s mountains in a specially outfitted wagon. Named bishop in 1887, he bought property, built parishes, hospitals and schools, and recruited religious orders.

“He had such a wonderful view of what his job was,” Stimpson said. “People always asked him why he didn’t build a cathedral like most bishops. He would reply that his job was the care of souls, and the souls in his area were so lost, and the needs of his flock many.”

“Come on Denver, let’s start his canonization proceedings!” she added.

Bishop Machebeuf is just one of the Catholics who helped shape the country highlighted in “The American Catholic Almanac.” The book, released last September, was co-authored by Stimpson and Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, a nonprofit political advocacy group based in Chicago.

The page-a-day history shares 365 inspiring stories that celebrate historic contributions of “saints and sinners” including clergy, religious, patriots, politicians, artists, athletes and ordinary people. About two-thirds of the stories highlight individuals including Buffalo Bill, Vince Lombardi, Dorothy Day, Fulton Sheen and Andy Warhol—and the other third share pivotal events and places, including the building of the Cathedral of the Plains on the Kansas prairie by Volga Germans, the birth of the new evangelization following World Youth Day in Denver in 1993, and the role of Catholics in the struggle for civil rights.

Credit for the idea to write it goes to Burch and CatholicVote.org, Stimpson explained.

“In the thick of HHS (Health and Human Services) controversy, (CatholicVote.org) was looking at how many people just didn’t seem to bat an eye at the fact that our religious liberties were being infringed,” she said. “People don’t seem to understand what we have, because some people don’t understand how others worked to get that freedom for us.”

While the stories draw on American history, they also provide a guide for today’s new evangelization.

“Catholics find themselves at a loss about how best to lead others to Christ. But the men and women in this book can show us the way,” the co-authors wrote in the preface. “What we see are men and women who thought little about their own comfort and much about Christ … They prayed. They loved. They served.”

That humility, service and sacrifice built the Church in America from the ground up, and brought people to the faith as “it changed minds, and it transformed hearts.”

“People are still people, and what worked to convince people of the truth and beauty and power of the faith 100, or 200, or 500 years ago will still work today,” Stimpson said.

For more information , visit www.catholicvote.org/american-catholic-almanac.

Did you know?

– The first immigrant to arrive in America via Ellis Island was a 15-year-old Irish Catholic girl.

– Al Capone’s tombstone reads “MY JESUS MERCY.”

– Andrew Jackson credited victory in the Battle of New Orleans to the prayers of the Virgin Mary and the Ursuline Sisters.

– Five Franciscans died in 16th-century Georgia defending the Church’s teachings on marriage.

– Jack Kerouac died wanting to be known as a Catholic and not only as a beat poet.

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