Cause on the Move
Paulist Father Isaac Thomas Hecker was "a real-life saint like you and me," Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York said Jan. 27, describing the founder of the Paulist Fathers.The Paulist founder joins a number of New York causes long underway, among them the 19th century Haitian emigré Pierre Toussaint, the Catholic Worker foundress Dorothy Day, and the city's seventh archbishop, Cardinal Terence Cooke.
"He was a person who suffered, who made his way through life bearing crosses and who taught that sanctity can be captured in many different ways," the cardinal added.
He made the comments during a Mass that marked the opening of the cause for Father Hecker's canonization and the 150th anniversary of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, the parish he established on Columbus Avenue in New York.
More than 1,000 people attended the bilingual Mass, concelebrated by several priests. Before the processional, Cardinal Egan blessed the tomb of Father Hecker, which is inside the church in the northeast corner.
In his homily, Cardinal Egan traced the "troubles and tribulations" that led Father Hecker to found the Paulists as a distinctly "American approach to announcing the Gospel."...
Father John Duffy, president of the Paulist Fathers, said it was Father Hecker's "driving conviction that if the principles of freedom and democracy of this country were combined with the teachings of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the Catholic Church then America could become a light to the nations."
Cardinal Egan recounted that Father Hecker's vision was incompatible with that of his religious superiors in Rome and he was dismissed from the Redemptorists. Fortunately, said Cardinal Egan, Father Hecker had the support of Pope Pius IX, who encouraged him to establish a congregation of priests dedicated to evangelizing North America.
In 1858, Archbishop John Hughes of New York gave a parish to Father Hecker and his fledgling order, formally known as the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle. It was the first religious congregation of Catholic men established in the U.S....
Father Duffy said Father Hecker was certain the Holy Spirit would guide the Paulists to meet the church's needs in the modern age.
He said that the present-day Paulist mission consists of "evangelization, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to the unchurched; reconciliation, reaching out to those who find themselves cut off from the community of faith and/or at the margins of society; seeking unity for the body of Christ and seeking dialogue with those of other world religions."
"With Father Hecker looking over our shoulders, I am reminded of what he would say: God is not finished with us yet. The Holy Spirit has so much more to bring forth!" Father Duffy said.