Catherine's Cause for Canonisation

The Church has great need of saints. The real innovators in the Church are the saints, holy people whose lives are dramatic with a humble and homely heroism

Why Canonisation ?

Holiness is found in a common day to day life. A saint is someone who offers so little resistance to the presence and the power of God, that God is able to pour himself freely into the person’s heart and fill it with Love. That Love flows out through the holy person’s hands out to all those who have need in the world – the poor, the lonely, the sick, the homeless, the helpless, all who have need of God’s Love whatever shape or form that need takes.


One saint is worth a thousand theological concepts. We will always need theologians to interpret our experiences of the Divine mysteries. We need saints to help us embrace that mystery. Minds are moulded and hearts are moved not by abstractions but by models.



There are three stages on the road to canonised sainthood in the Church:


Stage One

At stage one the life of the person, his / her actions, writings, interactions are all scrutinised and assembled in a work called the “Positio Super Virtutibus” This “position paper” on the lived virtue of the Servant of God, tells of the life of the person and of how s/he lived Christian virtues to an heroic degree. Heroic virtue in the eyes of the Church has nothing to do with extraordinary signs like ecstasy or levitation etc. What is looked for is how the person responded to God’s will in his/her life according to whatever state of life they lived e.g. married, single, religious.


Catherine McAuley herself said;

“Since God’s power is not limited to time or space, we have the same means as the greatest saints had. God can effect in us what he accomplished in them. In fact to arrive at their sanctity requires no more than to simply perform our daily actions perseveringly and regularly for this is what constitutes a saint”.



Once a cause gets under way the person is called a ‘Servant of God’. When the necessary scrutiny of the person’s life has taken place and it is accepted that the person did live Christian virtue to an heroic degree the Pope declares the Servant of God, Venerable. (Catherine McAuley was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II, on April 9th 1990)


Stage Two

The next stage in the process is the declaration of the person as Blessed. For beatification the Church requires one miracle. When a person is declared blessed s/he is proposed to the local church for veneration and imitation. In the process of verifying that a miracle has occurred, through the intercession of a Servant of God, (for example Catherine McAuley), the Church follows a very specific and detailed process. It begins with the assurance that the case being studied meets a number of criteria. The alleged cure must have two aspects.

The medical aspect:

  • scientifically inexplicable
  •  instantaneous or at least takes place over a period of time that is outside what would be ordinarily expected for the illness in question (is not a spontaneous remission)
  • complete
  • lasting.

The theological aspect:

  • the alleged cure takes place through the intercession of the Servant of God. 


Stage Three

The third stage is canonisation and another such miracle is required. For canonisation, the same exigent process takes place as happens for the process of beatification. The canonised saint is presented to the universal church for veneration and imitation.


The Cause

Responding to many inquiries about Catherine McAuley's cause for canonisation, Members of the Mercy International Association (MIA) in April, 2007 decided to approach the task with a new sense of urgency. They endorsed the move by the Postulator, Sister Brenda Dolphin (pictured right), to appoint three vice Postulators for the process. In so doing they were conscious that from many walks of life and from many parts of the globe, people whose lives have been touched by the story of Catherine have been expressing a wish that she be recognised as a saint.


Among the tasks of the vice Postulators will be the responsibility to gather and encourage the gathering of stories about Catherine to show how Catherine's life influences people. Her life of generous service to the needy, her deep faith and her trust in providence have been the inspiration not only for thousands of Mercy Sisters but also for their associates, families, friends, colleagues, co-workers and companions in ministry.


Whilst the enduring influence of Catherine's life and work, and the influence of her compassionate and practical concern for the poor are considered by many to be miraculous, what is required for Catherine to be beatified is a miraculous cure; and a further miracle is needed for her canonization. With Catherine McAuley's vision as our shared inheritance MIA is called at this time to promote the vision in ways that are creative, life-giving, appropriate to the times and sufficiently compelling to claim Catherine as a canonised saint.


In the light of the extent of the World Mercy family and in the interests of greater cohesiveness in the work of promoting the Cause, three Vice-Postulators were appointed by the Postulator in accordance with the procedures of the Congregation for Causes (Rome).


The role of the Vice Postulator like that of the Postulator is to:

  • Defend the interests of the Petitioner
  • To collaborate with competent ecclesiastical authorities
  • Seek and promote truth in all circumstances


The named Vice Postulators are:

Sheila Carney rsm  (Pittsburgh, U.S.A) - Vice Postulator for the Americas including Canada and the US Province of the Congregation

Anne Hannon rsm (Birr, Offaly, Ireland) - Vice Postulator for Europe and Africa    

Caroline Ryan rsm (Australia) - Vice Postulator for Australia & PNG, New Zealand and the Philippines.


Each Vice Postulator will have an advisory board to assist her in her work of making Catherine and the Charism of Mercy as widely known as possible in her area and encouraging prayer through the intercession of Catherine.


These sisters as well as other members of the international committee will be promoting awareness of the life, vision and virtues of Catherine among members of the Mercy Congregation throughout the world as well as among the public. They will also keep us informed of developments and will respond to any contributions or queries regarding the cause.


Other members of the International Committee in addition to the postulators are:

  • Sisters Maria Villegas (Philippines)
  • Antonia Blake (New Zealand)
  • Diane Smyth (Newfoundland)
  • Dolores McGee (Sunderland, Federation G.B.)
  • Mary McNamara (Institute, G.B.)
  • Mary Meaney (Union, G.B.)


Prayer for the Beatification of Catherine

Loving God You chose Catherine McAuley for the service of your people who are Poor, Sick and Uneducated. You inspired her to found the Sisters of Mercy so that these good works might endure. Give to each of us a portion of her compassionate spirit and an ardent desire to serve your suffering people. Graciously hear our prayers for Catherine and by granting the favours we ask through her intercession, hasten the day when her sanctity will be celebrated by all the Church.Amen

Mercy is... where there is a need...
Associates are called to unite themselves with Christ under the banner of Mercy, in corporal and spiritual works...
wherever there is a need ...

Find out more about Catherine McAuley's story on the Mercy World website.