VATICAN CITY (AP) – Mother Theodore Guerin established St. Mary-of-the-Woods College for women in Indiana in 1841. Mexican Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia risked his life to tend to the wounded during the Mexican revolution – sometimes disguised as a street vendor or a musician.

On Sunday, the two were named saints along with two Italian pioneers: a nun who advocated public schooling for girls in Italy in the late 17th century and a priest who was a trailblazer for the education of the deaf.

“The Church rejoices in the four new saints,” Pope Benedict XVI told a crowd of several thousand people at the ceremony in St. Peter’s Square. “May their example inspire us and their prayers obtain for us guidance and courage.”

Ailing Chicago Cardinal Francis George and other Americans came to honor Guerin. George, who had cancer surgery in July, read parts of the Mass, and the pope embraced him.

Despite decades of poor health, Guerin, who was born in 1798, set out with a handful of fellow French nuns for Indiana, where they founded a simple log-cabin chapel. For years, she resisted a local bishop’s opposition to her plans to establish a local community of nuns.

“She fought against all the odds,” said college alumna Angela E. White, 42, from Indianapolis. “Mother Theodore once said that we are not asked to do all of God’s work in this world, just the work we can do, and I think this is exactly what we have to do.”

Phil McCord, the American whose restored vision was judged by the Vatican to be the miracle necessary for Guerin’s sainthood, called the ceremony “overwhelming.”

McCord, a 60-year-old engineer who manages the campus of Guerin’s order, recalled how he had faced a corneal transplant after damage from cataract surgery. He entered the chapel at the college, asked Guerin for help and his eyesight started to improve the next morning, said McCord, the son of a lay Baptist minister.

Also named a saint was Guizar Valencia, who in 1921 renovated a seminary in Jalapa, Mexico, which the government later seized.

He succeeded in having the seminary operate clandestinely for 15 years in Mexico City. He died in 1938.

Benedict hailed Guizar Valencia for working tirelessly, even facing persecution, to ensure that seminarians were properly educated “according to the heart of Christ.”

At least 25,000 people paraded past the remains of Guizar Valencia all night Saturday and into Sunday in Jalapa, the capital of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.

“We hope that (the canonization) will help people believe more easily in this Mexican saint,” said Isidro Quechuleno, a Jalapa farmer. “We really feel like he’s ours and he’s part of our religiosity.”

Guizar Valencia was a great uncle of the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ order of priests whom the Vatican restricted from public ministry this year amid allegations Degollado sexually abused seminarians.

Filippo Smaldone, an Italian priest who lived from 1848-1923, gained sainthood for his education and assistance for the deaf. He also founded an order of nuns, the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts.

Rosa Venerini, who died in 1728, gained sainthood for founding the Congregation of the Holy Venerini Teachers and pushing to establish the first public schools for girls in Italy.

Sunday marked Benedict’s first canonization ceremony in nearly a year.

His predecessor, John Paul II, led several canonization and beatification ceremonies yearly, but Benedict has taken a less visible approach. Ceremonies for beatification, the last formal step before sainthood, are now led by local prelates in the country where the candidate lived or worked.

But Benedict has championed the call for John Paul’s sainthood.

A few weeks after John Paul’s April 2, 2005, death, Benedict announced that he was putting John Paul on the fast track for possible sainthood by waiving the traditional five-year waiting period before the process can begin.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.