Diocesan News

A Catholic Convert Canonized

A banner of St. John Henry Newman hangs on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Oct. 10. He is among five people canonized by Pope Francis on Oct. 13. (Photo: CNS/Junno Arocho Esteves)

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Since the Oratory of St. Philip Neri was established in Brooklyn, its members have been praying for the canonization of one of the most famous affiliates of this religious community, the English Cardinal John Henry Newman. And their prayers have finally been answered.

On Sunday, Pope Francis canonized five new saints at a Mass in Vatican City, including John Henry Newman.

In Brooklyn, the members of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, celebrated with more than 100 people that evening at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Brooklyn Heights. They prayed the Evening Prayer portion of the Liturgy of the Hours, as they have been doing for many years in support on Cardinal Newman’s cause.

John Henry Newman grew up Anglican in 19th century England. He was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1825 at age 24. Over the next 20 years, he became a renowned theologian. For 17 years, he was vicar of the university church at the University of Oxford, his alma mater.

In 1833, Newman was a leader of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, which pushed to rediscover early Christian writers and recover the Catholic roots of Anglicanism. Eventually, he was received into full communion as a Catholic in 1845 at age 44 and ordained a Catholic priest in 1847. That was also when he joined the Oratory.

Father Anthony Andreassi, c.o., Provost of the Brooklyn Oratory, said John Henry Newman was responsible for bringing the English-speaking world to know the Oratory. He also claimed the new saint was probably the most important theologian that led to the Second Vatican Council.

“Newman was so strong about seeing a central role that lay people play in the life of the Church,” he said. “Even at a time in the 19th century where another English priest said, ‘The role of the lay people was to pay, pray and obey.’”

“I feel wonderful. It’s a celebration today,” said Richard Carlson, parishioner at St. Boniface, Downtown Brooklyn, about Cardinal Newman’s canonization. “I’ve been a member of the Oratory since 1987 and we have prayed for this day in Evening Prayer here at the house every night since then.”

The Oratory of St. Philip Neri is a community of diocesan priests and religious brothers living together, but not taking the traditional religious order vow of poverty.

Carlson was one of dozens of lay parishioners from their two parishes, Assumption and St. Boniface, Downtown Brooklyn, in attendance on Oct. 13. St. Newman is someone Carlson particularly connects with, due to their common experience converting to Catholicism.

The Brooklynite grew up Lutheran, but then married his wife Helen, a Catholic. They raised their three daughters Catholic. One day, Helen asked him when he was going to join her at Mass. They went to St. James Cathedral-Basilica, Downtown Brooklyn, and met the Oratorian religious community. Carlson felt like he had come home.

Among the thousands in St. Peter’s Square were two Brooklyn Oratorians, Father Dennis Corrado, c.o., their founder, and Brother James Simon, c.o.

An official delegation of Anglican bishops and priests also attended the Mass, and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England, recorded a message for the occasion.

“His legacy is far broader than one church or two churches,” the archbishop said. “It is a global legacy, a legacy of hope and truth, of the search for God, of devotion to being part of the people of God.”

That continued search for God and finding a place in the body of Christ resonate with St. Boniface parishioners Emily and Jorge Corona.

“His struggles as an English guy converting to Catholicism are really poignant to me because we all struggle with trying to find our place in a secular society,” Emily said. “He seemed to really embrace that, which I think is really cool.”

The Mass also honored Brazilian St. Maria Rita Lopes Pontes, popularly known as Sister Dulce; Indian St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family; St. Marguerite Bays, a Swiss laywoman and mystic; and St. Josephine Vannini, the Italian co-founder of the Daughters of St. Camillus.

Catholic News Service contributed to this report.