MARQUETTE - After a four-month investigation, the Catholic Diocese of Marquette officially closed the inquiry into an alleged miracle being attributed to its first bishop, Frederic Baraga, during a ceremony held on July 17 at St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette.
The process for having Bishop Baraga declared a saint in the Catholic Church now moves on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican.
During the closing session, the members of the canonical tribunal that investigated the potential miracle signed papers attesting to their work. The authenticity of the documents being sent to Rome was verified, and then the material was bound and sealed. The entire closing procedure was completed under the watchful eyes of Dr. Andrea Ambrosi of Rome, the postulator of the Baraga Cause.
The tribunal investigated a case involving a supposed tumor on a patient's liver that had shown up on various diagnostic tests. The patient, the patient's family and their parish priest prayed for healing by invoking the intercession of Bishop Baraga. In addition, Bishop Baraga's stole was placed on the patient's abdomen, after which the patient reported that the pain being experienced went away. Doctors then performed exploratory surgery, but found no tumor.
In looking into the alleged miracle, the tribunal was charged with collecting medical documentation and interviewing various witnesses, including doctors and medical personnel involved in the treatment of the patient. It is now the task of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican to examine the tribunal's work and determine whether the event was one that could not be explained by science and whether it could be attributed to the intercession of Bishop Baraga. The tribunal is not allowed to disclose any details of its investigation at this time.
Dr. Ambrosi will personally deliver the investigation's documentation to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The congregation will once again review the positio, which details Bishop Baraga's life and virtues, as well as documents written by and about him. Then they will make a recommendation to Pope Benedict XVI regarding Bishop Baraga's heroic virtue. The Holy Father will then decide whether the title of "Venerable" can be bestowed on Bishop Baraga. This step in the process could take a year or more.
Once a miracle attributable to Baraga has been verified and the proper documentation submitted to the pontiff, Pope Benedict will decide whether Bishop Baraga is to be beatified, which would give him the title of "Blessed." This would allow him to be publicly venerated in a limited sense.
In order for Bishop Baraga to be canonized, that is, declared a saint, the diocese would need to verify another miracle attributable to his intercession that occurred after his beatification. Pending a positive result, Bishop Baraga would be known as Saint Frederic Baraga and be subject to public veneration throughout the worldwide Church.
The cause for Bishop Baraga's sainthood was opened in 1952. Bishop Baraga currently carries the title, "Servant of God," since the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has formally admitted his cause for consideration.
Bishop Baraga was born in Slovenia in 1797. He came to the United States to be a missionary to the Odawa and Ojibwa of the upper Great Lakes region in 1830. Bishop Baraga traveled throughout the 80,000 square mile territory by canoe, boat, horse, snowshoes and even dog sled.
He was consecrated a bishop and appointed vicar apostolic of the Upper Peninsula in 1853.
When the vicariate apostolic was established as the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie (now called the Diocese of Marquette) in 1857, Baraga served as its first bishop until his death in 1868.
His work includes an Ojibwa English dictionary, which is still in use today.
The Bishop Baraga Association was established in 1930 to promote the cause for sainthood of the "Snowshoe Priest," as Bishop Baraga is called.
For more information regarding the Bishop Baraga Association, contact Elizabeth Delene at 906-227-9117/800-562-9745, ext. 117 or e-mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.