Spalding man’s case for sainthood moves forward after vote of bishops

MARQUETTE — The Diocese of Marquette recently received word of the unanimous support of the U.S. bishops in the cause for sainthood for Irving Houle. Houle would be the first saint from Michigan.

Houle was raised in Spalding and graduated from St. Jospeh High School in Escanaba in 1944. After graduating, he served overseas in the army before meeting his future wife, Gail in 1947. The two were married within six months of meeting and had five children together.

Houle was said to be a religious man even before his life changed in 1993. During Holy Week, the week before Easter Sunday, Houle began to feel ill. By Easter, witnesses say he had received the stigmata.

“After Easter, he had red spots the size of dimes on his hands” his wife Gail stated. She says he struggled with them the remainder of his life but, despite bleeding often, they were never infected.

Before Houle’s death in 2006, he stated that he suffered visions of “the Passion” every night. He believed he suffered to save others from their sins. For this reason, he began to travel and began a public healing ministry.

One of the first people believed to be healed by Houle is Deacon Saunders, now the president for an association dedicated to promoting Houle’s cause. Saunders had already known Houle before the stigmata. During this time period, he had cancer and was not expected to live.

Saunders’ faith was strengthened through Houle’s belief in the love of God. Saunders says that Houle’s prayer after receiving the stigmata also saved him from his cancer.

The path to sainthood is a difficult one, with four distinct steps. The process cannot begin until five years after a person’s death. In the past it is said to have taken at least 100 years.

This is not true now, as there are quite a few examples of saints from the 20th century.

Step one in the path to sainthood is the opening of a Cause for Canonization. For Houle, this was done last year. Step two is a review of the person’s life by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Steps three and four are in regards to miracles preformed by the person. These miracles must be proven in some way and are often related to healing.

According to John Fee the Communications Director for the Diocese of Marquette, this new development does fulfill the second step on the path to sainthood but “there’s still a very long way to go.”

When asked about her views on the matter, Houle’s wife Gail wanted to clear up a misconception on sainthood.

“People often think of saints as being ‘above’ us, but in the different stories on the saints, they aren’t above you. They’re just human. Irving is my saint and this is well deserved,” she said.

For more information on Houle, a book entitled “A Man Called Francis” was written by Robert J. Fox in 2005. The book used the name Francis for privacy reasons. It covers the life and work of Irving Houle.

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