Is the Church’s canonization process a “good ol’ boy network”? That was the opinion expressed by someone in a letter to a Bay Area newspaper a few days after the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II. The letter writer, who also groused that the Church has seemingly forgotten about Mother Teresa of Calcutta, is apparently uninformed: Mother Teresa has been Blessed Teresa of Calcutta since 2003. A second miracle is required for her canonization.
It was a glorious celebration for the whole Church when two beloved popes were canonized by Pope Francis, with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in attendance—truly an historic event! But lest anyone harbor the notion that women are overlooked in the Church, perhaps this is also a good time to shine the spotlight on just a few of the many, many women the Church has elevated to sainthood in its long history.
The first Native American to be canonized, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, was orphaned in childhood and baptized as a young woman. Her baptism was a heroic act of courage on her part because she risked estrangement from her own people. Kateri found a welcoming home in a Christian village of Native Americans in what is now upstate New York, where she tended the sick and elderly until her death at the tender age of 24 in 1680.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, an Episcopalian and the mother of five children, was introduced to the Catholic faith by a devout family in Italy. Inspired by their example, she joined the Church after returning to the U.S. when her husband died. Elizabeth was instrumental in founding the first congregation for women religious in the U.S. She embraced the rule of the Daughters of Charity and took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in 1809. Mother Seton was a wife, mother, widow, convert, educator, founder, and religious.