By Dave Jolivet, Anchor Editor
NORTH EASTON, Mass. — Calling it “our present,” Father David Marcham, vice postulator for Servant of God Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton’s sainthood cause told The Anchor from his office at Holy Cross Family Ministries, plans are on track to have the Rosary Priest’s positio finalized for delivery to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican by Christmas.
The positio, or position, is a summary of a diocesan inquiry which collects interview responses from individuals in all stages of Father Peyton’s life, including his growing up in Ireland, his time when he emigrated to Pennsylvania with his brother, his seminary years at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., the time he spent in the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., and the countless Rosary crusades he led across the world.
“The diocesan inquiry, which was initiated by the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, was completed on July 20, 2010,” Father Marcham told The Anchor. “It included oral testimonies and responses to questionnaires containing about 200 questions from individuals covering 35 dioceses across the world. In all the document totaled 6,000 pages worth of testimony.”
The document was sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, where a review was conducted of the contents. The congregation deemed the inquiry to be “juridically valid,” per canon law guidelines.
From the 6,000-page document, a positio was begun. “Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, the postulator of Father Peyton’s cause, along with a priest at the Vatican with a great deal of experience in the process began a review of the inquiry that was all-inclusive,” explained Father Marcham. “The purpose is to fine-tune the information giving a finer representation and more accurate picture of Father Peyton’s life for the congregation.”
Besides testimony from people who knew and worked with the Rosary Priest, the inquiry included Father Peyton’s writings, homilies, talks, books, movies, audio reflections, and documentation of communications between him and his superiors, bishops, and even popes.
“It’s a test to see who Father Peyton was,” added Father Marcham. “The priest who is working with Dr. Ambrosi is a theologian who is reading the documentation ‘with the eyes of those who will review the positio.’ He knows what they will be looking for.”
Father Marcham said the final positio will still be quite lengthy at more than 1,000 pages.
“I haven’t seen other diocesan inquiries since this is the first time I’ve ever been a vice postulator of a sainthood cause, but I believe the 6,000 pages is more than usual,” Father Marcham said. “It’s because the breadth of inquiry was so worldwide and the fact that Father Peyton was a priest for more than 50 years.”
Father Marcham became vice postulator of Father Peyton’s sainthood cause on Nov. 25, 2009. “When I was appointed, I didn’t know what it would entail,” he told The Anchor. “The notification came in a big legal-sized envelope stamped about 15 times. It was intimidating. But since then each day is a learning experience for me.
“My responsibilities include assisting Dr. Ambrosi in Rome, working with the Baltimore Archdiocese, the Albany Diocese, interacting with canon lawyers, reading through people’s testimonies, and handling requests for documents. I basically facilitate communication and documentation for the cause.”
But even more importantly for Father Marcham, it gives him the opportunity to “Promote Father Peyton’s life as a Spiritual inspiration. Sharing it with others, drawing them closer to the life of Christ and the example of the Blessed Mother. We do this through the Internet, television, print media, preaching and blogging.”
The opening of Father Peyton’s sainthood cause was formally announced on June 1, 2001, by then-Fall River Bishop Sean P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap., at the Cardinal Medeiros Residence in Fall River.
The cause was opened in the Fall River Diocese because it is where Father Peyton is buried, at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Easton.
Responsibilities for his sainthood cause were later transferred from the Fall River Diocese to the Baltimore Archdiocese. “Because the breadth and scope of the study of Father Peyton’s life is so large, worldwide, it wasn’t fair to ask the Fall River diocesan Tribunal to undertake the diocesan inquiry,” Father Marcham explained. “The Baltimore Archdiocese’s Tribunal was much better equipped to take on the task. But thanks must go out to those in the Fall River Diocese who worked on the cause because it wouldn’t be where it is now without them.”
Father Marcham told The Anchor that he is pleased and excited about where the cause stands right now. “I’m extremely encouraged at this point,” he said. “Our hope is to present the positio to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints by Christmas. After that, it is up to them when it will be studied.”
Father Marcham said that there are other causes that the congregation has to study, but he feels that Father Peyton’s may have some elements that could help to push the process along a bit more quickly.
“Many factors go into the congregation’s decision to look into the positio,” he said. “Father Peyton does have two possible miracles credited to his intercession that are being studied. And we’re hoping to send a copy of the positio to Pope Francis as well if possible. We’re looking into that right now and praying that will happen.
“Pope Francis speaks often of the importance of family and praying and there is the big World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next September. I feel that Father Peyton could be an excellent patron saint for families.
“The congregation will see what the needs of the Church are. I feel as though some things are lining up. There is a Providential confluence of things.”
Father Marcham said that some sainthood causes can go on for hundreds of years, and some are not deemed worthy. “I feel things are moving along at a very good pace. But we know all things are in God’s time, and I surrender to that and view this as God teaching us, for the good.”
If the Congregation for the Causes of Saints determines, via the positio, that Father Peyton’s life was heroic, it would present the case to the Holy Father who could declare Father Peyton as “venerable.”
Should that happen, one of the two purported miracles attributed to Father Peyton’s intercession would be investigated. One of the miracles is said to have occurred in the Albany, N.Y. Diocese, and the other in Uganda.
Father Marcham admits that the time since Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton’s cause was opened in 2001, time has gone quickly. He also admits that the greatest Christmas present he could receive this year is to send a nice packaged positio to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, and possibly even Pope Francis.