Bishop Francis Xavier Ford

Bishop Ford Guild Promotes Sainthood for Brooklyn-Born Missionary

The guild has distributed a prayer card with Bishop Ford’s image to encourage Catholics to pray for his intercession. (Tablet File Photo)

WINDSOR TERRACE – The cause for canonization for Bishop Francis Xavier Ford (1892-1952) is getting a helping hand from a group of clergy and laypersons dedicated to spreading the word about his legacy.

 The Bishop Francis Xavier Ford, M.M. Guild is planning to intensify its efforts toward garnering support — including financial support — to have the Brooklyn-born Maryknoll missionary declared a saint.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio announced the guild’s formation in 2017 — the year which marked the 100th anniversary of Francis Xavier Ford’s ordination. 

Among its duties, the guild raises awareness of Bishop Ford, encourages Catholics to pray for his intercession, and raises funds for the canonization cause. “The idea is to promote the cause,” Bishop DiMarzio said.

According to Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, the vicar general for the Diocese of Brooklyn, the guild is seeking new members to help fulfill its mission. He serves as Bishop DiMarzio’s liaison to the Bishop Ford Committee and the official spokesperson of the committee.

The guild currently has 75 members. “I’d like more,” Bishop Chappetto said. “The more we can do to spread the devotion, the better.”

There are different membership levels, including annual memberships of $25 a year for individuals and $50 a year for families, plus lifetime memberships of $500 per person and $1,000 per family.

The guild’s leaders are looking ahead to when the COVID-19 pandemic ends, and members can do public outreach, said Monsignor Kevin Noone, its spiritual moderator. “Bishop Chappetto and I may be going around to churches to do some public speaking,” Msgr. Noone said.

The organization is stepping up its work at a time when interest in Bishop Ford is increasing. In January, NET-TV will air a documentary about Bishop Ford’s life, “Francis X. Ford Servant of God.”

“He’s a prominent figure in the life and history of the diocese,” Bishop Chappetto said. 

Bishop Ford served as a missionary in China for 34 years and died in a prison camp in 1952 after enduring torture and deprivation at the hands of the Communist government.

Msgr. John Vesey, pastor of St. Michael’s Church, Flushing, served as a missionary in China and is credited by many in the diocese as being a driving force in the canonization effort. 

“He’s got that missionary spirit. The cause of Bishop Ford is fundamental to him,” Bishop Chappetto said.

Bishop Ford is deserving of sainthood, according to Msgr. Vesey. 

“This was a man of deep faith who wanted to share that faith with people. But he was smart about it. He was unique because he didn’t try to force colonialism in China. He wanted them to keep their culture. He wanted native vocations,” Msgr. Vesey said.

Bishop DiMarzio said Bishop Ford had great insight: “He understood how the Chinese people thought, and he respected them.”

Bishop DiMarzio opened an initial investigation into Bishop Ford, decided that he qualified for sainthood, and declared him a Servant of God, a designation that a bishop has the authority to bestow.

Bishop DiMarzio then received permission from the Vatican to begin a more in-depth investigation to start the process that could lead to canonization. The diocese is working with the Maryknoll Society on the effort.

A theological commission was formed to investigate Bishop Ford’s life and examine his writings to ensure that nothing he wrote would be at odds with the Catholic doctrine. The examination of Bishop Ford’s writings is still taking place, although Father Kevin Hanlon M.M., a Maryknoll priest on the commission, said that part of the process is wrapping up.

The research into Bishop Ford’s life is somewhat easier because he left a lot of writings behind. “He was something of a prolific writer,” Msgr. Noone said.

Everyone involved in the effort is convinced Bishop Ford led a holy life.

“He certainly deserves to be a saint,” Father Hanlon said. “The people of God need to know about him. He embodied self-sacrifice.”

“He had a very, very long way of the cross, suffering, in his lifetime,” Bishop Chappetto said.

According to Bishop DiMarzio, the lessons of Bishop Ford’s life as a missionary resonate today in the diocese, which is often called the Diocese of Immigrants.

“We have so many people who have come here from other countries. We have to respect their understanding of the church. In a certain sense, we’re missionaries,” he said.

To join the guild, click the form below, print and mail your completed document:

One thought on “Bishop Ford Guild Promotes Sainthood for Brooklyn-Born Missionary

  1. It would have been informative to to let readers know that along with Bishop Francis X Ford MM., the other candidate that the diocese is promoting for Canonization is Msgr. Bernard J. Quinn, one of its own diocesan priests. Msgr. Quinn had a great admiration for bishop Ford and raised funds at St. Peter Claver Church for his missionary work in China.