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State of Saints

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New Yorkers may seem hardened and cynical, but they can still take notice of miracles within their borders. Hence, their pride in having two new saints to their claim. The first, Kateri Tekakwitha, known as "the Lily of the Mohawks," lived her faith in the area of Amsterdam, a relatively short distance from the state capital, Albany. She did so despite fierce opposition from her tribe and died in 1680. The other, Mother Marianne Cope, a member of the Syracuse Franciscan nuns, gave her life to helping the poor, especially those outcasts with Hansen's disease, on a leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. She died in 1918. Both will be canonized Oct. 21 by Pope Benedict XVI. From the Empire State's perspective, this gives New York State "pride of ownership" of seven of the 12 formally acknowledged saints in the United States.

Saints in the state were heralded in the New York Times last Saturday in an informative article by editorial writer Lawrence Downes.

Downes' highlighting of 12 American saints made journalist factfinders pause. The Catholic Church says the country claims 10 official saints. The New York Daily News called the bishops' conference to ask about the discrepancy. A little research discovered that while the Vatican speaks of Jesuit St. Isaac Jogues and his companions in martyrdom as one addition to the roll of saints, the New York Times counted by name two of Jogues' martyred companions, René Goupil and Jean de la Lande. Thus, for the Times, the Empire State now can claim a total of seven official saints, and the nation may claim 12.

The Jesuit martyrs are held high by the Albany Diocese, home of the Shrine of the North American Martyrs near Amsterdam. Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany has been calling his see "the diocese of saints." He notes that the diocese claims not only the three Jesuits martyred there and now Blessed Kateri, but also Mother Marianne. When the Syracuse Franciscan went to Hawaii, it was actually from the Albany Diocese since the Diocese of Syracuse didn't exist then. It was formed later to include land from the Albany Diocese.

Downes also lets New York claim the first American saint, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, a naturalized citizen who worked with Italian immigrants in New York City; and the first native U.S. saint, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, the founder of the Catholic school system, who was born in the Big Apple. From his office in Manhattan, Downes thinks of the seven saints as New Yorkers. Not bad for just one of the 50 states. Bishop Hubbard from his office in Albany notes that five of the seven were from his diocese alone. Even better for just one of the 195 dioceses in the nation.

Others also can take pride. With the canonization of Mother Marianne, U.S. nuns now have their sixth official American nun saint. In addition to Mother Marianne, they include St. Frances Xavier Cabrini; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; St. Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia socialite who became a missionary to Indians and Native Americans; St. Mother Théodore Guérin, founder of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods and who opened schools in Illinois and Indiana; and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, a missionary to Native Americans, who traveled to the Louisiana Territory from France and opened the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi.

You have to smile when you look at the accomplishments of these 10 (or is it 12?) official saints. And with seven of the 12 connected to New York, and five connected to the Albany Diocese, it's clear why even God may chant the state mantra/slogan, "I love New York."