Meet the soon-to-be saints Pope Francis will canonize this October

Moira Cullings

Pope Francis will canonize seven people on Oct. 14 during the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.

The list includes one pope, a lay man, two women who founded religious orders and three priests. A common theme among them is a deep care for the poor and a strong faith in Jesus despite difficult times.

Get to know the lives of these almost-saints and the work they did to build the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

Pope Paul VI

Most well-known for his encyclical Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), which he published in 1968, Pope Paul VI faced drastic societal changes during his time as pontiff and responded with predictions of the negative impact such advancements would have on society in years to come.

Pope Paul VI was ordained a priest on May 29, 1920. He was eventually appointed as Archbishop of Milan by Pope Pius XII in 1954 and was named a cardinal by Pope John XXIII in 1958.

On June 21, 1963, Pope Paul VI was elected pope and served in that role until 1978. A major part of his pontificate was taking over and eventually closing the Second Vatican Council, during which time he established the Synod of Bishops.

Perhaps his most well-known achievement, though, was Humanae Vitae, in which the pope prophesied the impact artificial contraception would have on society. Many argue that his predictions laid out in the document have since come true.

Often overshadowed, another of the pope’s noteworthy works, the exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (One Proclaiming the Gospel), focused on the importance of evangelization. Pope Francis has called this document “the greatest pastoral document that has ever been written to this day.”

Along with his many notable accomplishments, Pope Paul VI was also the first pontiff to travel by plane and the first to travel to the United States.

He was beatified on Oct. 19, 2014.

Nunzio Sulprizio

The month of the Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment seems like the perfect time for Nunzio Sulprizio’s canonization.

Nunzio was a lay person who died at just 19 years old, and although his life was short, it was packed with a deep suffering accompanied by profound faith.

Nunzio’s parents died when he was just a child, and he was taken in by his uncle, who abused and exploited him.

Nunzio found strength in Jesus, even after he contracted gangrene in one of his legs, which caused even greater suffering in his life. During this time, he lived in a hospital in Naples where he assisted other patients and clung to his faith.

The young man eventually passed away from bone cancer.

Nunzio was beatified in 1963 by Pope Paul VI, who said that the young man’s life taught that young people have a more important and meaningful mission than they might think.

“Nunzio Sulprizio will tell you that the period of youth should not be considered the age of free passions, inevitable falls, of invincible crises, of decadent pessimism, of harmful selfishness,” he said.

Rather, the pope said, Nunzio shows that being young is a wonderful opportunity.

“It is a grace, it is a blessing to be innocent, to be pure, to be happy, to be strong, to be full of ardor and life — just like those who receive the gift of fresh and new existence should be, regenerated and sanctified by baptism.”

Maria Catherine Kasper

Maria Catherine Kasper lived a simple life in a small German community. Growing up, she attended school as often as she could, but health problems often kept her home. She enjoyed doing her chores and reading.

As a child, Catherine and her friends would visit the local Marian shrine, and she was attracted to religious life at a young age.

When her father died when she was just 21, she and her mother lived with another family, and Catherine worked as a farm hand to earn a living for her family.

Starting from a young age, Catherine enjoyed helping the poor and sick in her community. Her efforts inspired others to get involved as well, and their dedication eventually led Catherine and four other women to form a religious community called The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ.

Catherine’s deep love for Mary led her to take the name Maria Catherine.

Since its founding, the ministry of the Poor Handmaids has spread to several other countries, including India, Brazil and the United States. The order now has hundreds of sisters who continue the work inspired by Catherine.

Catherine was beatified on Apr. 16, 1978.

Oscar Romero

Known as the Archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated on Mar. 24, 1980, Oscar Romero was a martyr of the Church who exhibited a deep love for the poor.

Growing up in a large family, Oscar’s family lived a simple life with no electricity or running water. He and his siblings slept on the floor of their humble house.

Oscar attended school until age 12 when he started working to earn money and help his family. He felt a call toward the priesthood, though, and eventually entered seminary at the ripe age of 14. He was ordained in 1942 at just 25 years old and became a well-liked preacher with a deep concern for the underprivileged.

Oscar became the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador in 1970. Four years later, he became Bishop of Santiago de Maria and in 1977 he was named Archbishop of San Salvador.

Oscar served during a time of social and political conflict and violence in El Salvador and stood up for the poor from the pulpit.

While he was promoting peace in his country and speaking out against military oppression, the press and public reviled his teachings and what he stood for, and he began receiving death threats. Once those threats increased, he realized he would eventually be killed.

Oscar was assassinated while celebrating Mass in the chapel of a cancer hospital where he lived. Vatican theologians declared him a martyr, saying he was killed in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith).

He was beatified on May 23, 2015.

Francesco Spinelli

During Francesco Spinelli’s first year of the priesthood in 1875, he visited the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and knelt before the crib of Jesus.

It was there he had a vision of young women adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The image was so powerful it led him to found the Sister Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, a religious congregation devoted to Eucharistic adoration.

Francesco was born in Milan and had an attraction to the Eucharist from a young age.

In a biography written by the order he founded, it is said that Francesco suffered a spine injury when he was 14 years old and used crutches to walk following the accident. But after praying in church in front of a statue of Mary, Francesco was miraculously cured and left the church without using his crutches.

Francesco felt called to the priesthood and was ordained in 1875. His love for serving the poor started during his childhood and continued throughout his priesthood, during which time he taught at a seminary by day and ran a school for underprivileged parishioners by night.

His love for the poor and devotion to the Eucharist helped him become beatified in 1992.

Vincenzo Romano

Vincenzo Romano spent his entire priesthood serving in Torre del Greco, a town plagued by the volcano Mount Vesuvius, which erupted in 1794 and caused destruction throughout the Italian town.

The damage prompted Vincenzo to rebuild Santa Croce, his parish church, with his own hands.

Vincenzo’s dedication to serving his parishioners was made evident during that time, but also throughout his priesthood in the Torre del Greco community.

Vincenzo was born in 1751 and was eventually educated in Naples, where he studied the writings of St. Alphonsus de Liguori. He answered the call to the priesthood and was ordained in 1775 at just 24 years old.

The priest not only loved and guided his community, but he went out of his way to care for the poor and sick. Vincenzo didn’t shy away from the social qualms happening during his life.

He had a particular heart for orphans, as well as candidates for the priesthood, and was remembered for leading a simple and humble lifestyle.

Vincenzo’s reputation for holiness helped him become beatified in 1963.

Nazaria Ignazia March Mesa

Upon receiving her First Communion, Nazaria Ignazia March Mesa felt called to religious life.

Despite her family’s indifference to the Catholic faith, and the discouragement she received from them when it came to attending Mass and developing devotions, she joined the Franciscan Third Order after she was confirmed.

Nazaria grew up in Spain but moved with her family to Mexico, where she met members of the Little Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly. She felt called to religious life and made perpetual vows to the order in 1915 and went on to serve in Bolivia.

During her time in the order, she worked as a cook, a housekeeper and a nurse. But by 1920, she felt a call to create a new congregation focused on missionary work and evangelization. In 1925, she and six other sisters founded the Pontifical Crusade, which was later renamed the Congregation of the Missionary Crusaders of the Church.

The order’s work focused on offering religious education for children and adults, as well as leading missions. Despite receiving much adversity and opposition to her work, Nazaria continued to serve her local community and beyond.

Her work took her to Buenos Aires, and she helped the order spread throughout South America, as well as parts of Europe.

Nazaria was beatified on Sept. 27, 1992.

COMING UP: Conference to mark 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s prophetic enyclical

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Five decades ago, Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae, an encyclical warning Catholics about the culture of contraception and the impact it would have on society.

“He prophetically defended the integrity of married love and warned us against the danger of reducing sexuality to a source of pleasure alone,” Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila wrote in his Feb. 2 pastoral letter “The Splendor of Love.”

“Unfortunately, Blessed Paul VI’s prophecies have all come true,” he later wrote.

Today, the encyclical’s message is more relevant than ever.

To mark its 50th anniversary, the Archdiocese of Denver is hosting “Humanae Vitae: The Next 50 Years” — a conference that will explore what the document has to say about human sexuality, procreation and parenthood within the context of marriage.

“We really want to focus on the future,” said Carrie Keating, NFP and marriage specialist for the archdiocese.

“The next 50 years belong to us,” said Keating. “We want to discuss opportunities to make a difference in our culture’s understanding of sexuality, marriage and issues of life. In charity, we can be strong and courageous on this particular teaching.”

Anyone interested in learning more about God’s plan for sexuality is invited to attend.

“We’re having this conference to recognize the prophetic vision of Humanae Vitae and to equip parents, educators, medical professionals, youth ministers and communicators with the armor and inspiration they need to witness boldly to everyone they meet,” said Keating.

In his pastoral letter, Archbishop Aquila notes this anniversary “provides the Church with an opportunity to express our gratitude for all the blessings that God has bestowed upon us.

Humanae Vitae was a gift for the Church and for the world, a courageous prophecy about the beauty of human life and married love,” he wrote.

The conference’s speakers will include Archbishop Aquila, Dr. Michel Therrien and Dr. Susan Selner-Wright, as well as a panel of clergy and lay leaders who will present their own testimonies and vision for educating Catholics on the Church’s teachings on love, marriage and happiness.

Keating believes this anniversary is the perfect opportunity to address these complex topics.

“There’s a lot of confusion in the world about sexuality and marriage,” she said. “Humanae Vitae can clarify our thinking about that and help future generations to be rooted in truth and love.”

To register for “Humanae Vitae: The next 50 years,” visit archden.org/humanae-vitae.

Humanae Vitae
Saturday, April 21
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
St. Thomas More Catholic Church — McCallin Hall
8035 S. Quebec St. Centennial, CO