Recognizing American saints

Most attention-paying U.S. Catholics are aware of the beatification causes for Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Catholic Worker co-foundress Dorothy Day. Five more causes, currently in the works, illustrate the rich diversity of American Catholicism and the extraordinary ways in which the Holy Spirit enlivens “heroic virtue”—the mark of a saint.

The Servant of God Vincent Capodanno, M.M., was born on Staten Island and ordained for Maryknoll in 1957. After seven years of missionary service in Taiwan, he volunteered for the Navy Chaplain Corps and was posted to the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam in 1966. During a battle in the Que Son valley in September 1967, Father Capodanno, already wounded while administering the last rites to the dying, tried to save a wounded corpsman who had fallen near a North Vietnamese machine gun. The “Grunt Padre” was killed in the midst of his act of mercy and posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Venerable Solanus Casey, O.F.M. Cap., entered the diocesan seminary in Milwaukee in 1891 and was dismissed on grounds of academic incapacity in 1896. On Christmas Eve of that year, he entered the Capuchin monastery in Detroit, where he again encountered difficulties with the pre-ordination course of studies. Recognizing his impressive spiritual and moral qualities, his superiors permitted his ordination in 1904, but he was not granted faculties for preaching or hearing confessions. Despite the limitations placed on his ministry, he became a beloved spiritual director and counselor, and the vehicle of many cures, physical and spiritual, during 53 years of priestly service in New York, Detroit, and Huntington, Ind. His example is one of the inspirations of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

The Servant of God Walter Czisek, S.J., a Polish-American, was something of a hellion when he was growing up in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town in the early 20th century. So he surprised everyone when he entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1928; a year later, he volunteered to go to Soviet Russia as a missionary, inspired by Pius XI’s efforts to rekindle Catholic life in the Stalinist USSR. Trained at Rome’s Russicum and ordained in 1937, Ciszek made his way to the Urals in the chaotic early days of World War II, where he worked as a logger while conducting an underground ministry. Arrested by the Soviet secret police and charged with being a Vatican spy, Ciszek spent almost 23 years in captivity, including hard time in the Gulag. Swapped for two Soviet agents in 1963, he spent the last two decades of his life in New York, giving spiritual direction and writing two books of memoirs, before dying in 1984.

The Servant of God Augustus Tolton was born into slavery in 1854, his master’s wife standing as godmother at his baptism in Brush Creek, Mo. After the Civil War, Tolton began his education at a parochial school in Quincy, Ill., over the objections of racially prejudiced parishioners. Despite the support of his pastor, Tolton was denied admission by the American seminaries of the day and eventually completed his studies for the priesthood at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. Ordained in 1886, he imagined he would serve in the African missions, but was instead sent back to Quincy, where his ministry met with considerable resistance from bigots. Transferred to Chicago, he built St. Monica’s at 36th and Dearborn into a thriving African-American parish before dying of heatstroke in 1897 on his way to visiting the sick.

And then there is the Servant of God Francis X. Ford, M.M., about whom I’ve written before. A Brooklyn native and Maryknoll’s first seminarian, Ford was ordained in 1917 and immediately went to China where, after serving as priest and later bishop for over three decades, he died in a communist prison on Feb. 21, 1952; his remains were scattered by his persecutors lest his tomb become a pilgrimage site for Chinese Catholics. As there is no question that Bishop Ford was martyred, one can only hope that Vatican nervousness about ruffling feathers in Beijing will subside so that Ford’s long-overdue beatification can be celebrated.

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

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On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit: https://www.cocatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-bills-analysis/  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 


HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.