Acclaimed by Four Centuries: History of the Cause

Nihil Obstat of the Holy See

As early as September 23, 1981, Bishop Lessard had requested the Nihil obstat of the Holy See to institute the Cause of Fray Pedro de Corpa and his Companions. The requested authorization was granted and communicated to him in a letter dated March 7, 1986, from the Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In the somewhat lengthy interval between the request and the granting, there had taken place a historic simplification of the procedure in the promotion of causes of saints. The Cardinal's communication alludes to this when he writes: "In accordance with 'The Norms to be Observed in Inquiries made by Bishops in the Causes of the Saints,' promulgated on February 7, 1983, I am pleased to inform you that, on the part of the Holy See there are NO OBJECTIONS that the Cause of Pedro de Corpa and 4 Companions be initiated according to existing legislation ( cf The Apostolic Constitution 'The Divine Teacher and Model of Perfection-' - AAS 75 (1983), 349-355).”

The expediting of this official authorization for the process was facilitated by the good offices of Father Juan Folguera, O.F.M., who was shortly to succeed Father Cairoli as the Postulator General of the Order of Friars Minor. In his company, the Postulator of the Cause, while making a studium for persons specializing in the instruction of Causes of Canonization, sponsored by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, on January 21, 1986, visited Father Robert J. Sarno, a priest of the Brooklyn Diocese attached to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. At Sarno's request, on January 23 the Postulator presented a curriculum vitae of the Five Martyrs. Within the next few days the two Congregations of the Doctrine of the Faith and of Religious and Secular Institutes gave their clearance to the Cause. The Cardinal Prefect's letter with that information was issued on the following March 7, 1986.

Following receipt of the letter advising that the Cause had officially been registered with the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, and that the nihil obstat had been issued, intensive work was undertaken for preparing the Relatio prescribed by Divinus perfectionist Magister. On April 18 and 19, 1986, a meeting was held at the Franciscan Friary in Cordele, Georgia, at which the main topic discussed was the prescribed Relatio, to be presented to the Bishop as the first step in the Diocesan Process (Norm 14, a and b). At that meeting it was proposed and agreed to organize a commission of periti in the various disciplines that would be involved, experts namely in History, Theology and Canon Law. A tentative list of competent clerical and lay scholars was proposed, whom the Postulator duly approached with a request for their cooperation in preparing the "accurate and precise Report specified in the New Laws (Norm 14 a and b):" Present at the Cordele meeting, besides the host, Fr. Patrick Adams, were two Georgia historians, Dr. F. Lamar Pearson and Dr. Edward J. Cashin; a Resident Member of the Academy of American Franciscan History, Fr. Francisco Morales, O.F.M.; and the Postulator, who presided. A tentative outline for the Report was discussed; on the basis of suggestions of the participants, subsequently it was improved and finalized.

On April 11-16, 1988, a meeting was held in St. Augustine, Florida, to discuss the distribution of the various items among the scholars who had signified their readiness to collaborate in the preparation of the Report. This meeting was held at Flagler College, with the cooperation and part-time participation of Dr. Eugene Lyon. For the meeting the city of St. Augustine had been selected in view of the excavations then being carried out at the site of the earliest Franciscan convento in the present territory of the United States. For more than a century and a half the Convento de la Limpia Concepción de la Madre de Dios was the headquarters of the first Franciscan Province in our national territory.

In the following months of 1988 the Postulator entered into discussions with the several scholars whose cooperation had been suggested for the preparation of the Positio, or Report, to be submitted to the Bishop of Savannah and his Commission. Recognized authorities in a specific field, the scholars who agreed to accept the writing of one or other of the chapters of the Report, or who contributed significantly in the over-all effort are the following members of the Franciscan Order: Francisco Morales, Francis J. Muller, Conrad L. Harkins, Cyprian J. Lynch, Patrick Adams and Capistran Hanlon. In addition two lay historians, Fred Lamar Pearson and Edward J. Cashin, were effective members of the group which prepared the Report. To be edited and coordinated by the Postulator, the cooperative work, by late 1991, was largely completed. For well over another year, through 1992, the Postulator was engaged in the final editing of the Positio for submission to the judgment of the Diocesan Tribunal. A professional typist was engaged to prepare a master-copy of the Positio. The result was a typed volume of over 260 pages. In all, a total of twelve copies were made, for the use of the Diocesan Bishop, the members of the Diocesan Tribunal, the co-authors of the Report and the Archives of the Cause. On January 14, 1993, the required number of copies of the Positio were dispatched to the Chancery ofSavannah, and on Thursday of the following week, January 21, the Postulator met with Bishop Lessard and the members of the Tribunal, in order officially to hand over the completed Report. On that occasion, in addition to the Bishop, all the members of the Diocesan Tribunal were present: Father Francis J. Nelson, Diocesan Judicial Vicar and Episcopal Delegate for the Cause of the Georgia Martyrs; Father Jeremiah McCarthy, Vice Chancellor of the Diocese and Promoter of Justice for the Cause; and Father William Leahy, Associate Judge for the Cause; with Sister Anna Gaffney, S.S.M.N., Notary for the Cause.

”Rule of l221," ch. 16:10-11, in The Writings of Saint Francis, trans. Ignatius Brady (Assisi: Edizioni Porziuncola, 1983) 77. Henceforth, Brady.

St. Bonaventure, Major Life of St. Francis, chap. 12: I, trans. Benen Fahy in Marion A. Habig (ed.), St. Francis of Assisi: Writings and Early Biographies: English Omnibus of the Sources for the Life of St. Francis, 4lh rev. ed. (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983), 721. Cited henceforth as Omnibus.

Ibid., chap. 3:1, pp. 646-47.

Thomas of Celano, The First Life of St. Francis, chap. JO: 29, trans. Placid Hermann in Omnibus, 247.

Ibid., chap. I 5, p. 258.

Bonaventure, Major Life, chap. 9:5, in Omnibus, 701.

St. Francis, "Letter Addressed to the Whole Order," in Brady, 121.

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The First Georgia Missions: Our Southern Catholic Heritage, Dr. Paul Thigpen and Katherine Ragan. Illustrations by Pamela Gardner, based on the retablo by Dan Nichols. This retablo is part of the parish patrimony of Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church in Jasper, Georgia

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