Homemaker saint?

California woman who wrote extensively of herreligious visions is put on path toward sainthood

By Mark Emmons

San Jose Mercury News

Published: Saturday, Oct. 19 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Michael Huston, left, Father Gary Thomas and Michael McDevitt hold a photograph of Cora Evans at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Saratoga, California, on September 19, 2013. The three are pushing for Evans to be canonized by the church. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

Dan Honda, Mct

SAN JOSE, Calif. (MCT) — An uncommonly devout homemaker who spent the end of her life quietly in the Santa Cruz Mountains community of Boulder Creek, Cora Evans was content not to be the center of attention.

But now, after taking the first step toward sainthood, that's no longer possible.

By declaring Evans a "Servant of God," the Vatican has put a woman who still is largely unknown 56 years after her death on the path to the Catholic Church's most exclusive club.

Canonization, which is steeped in both traditional faith and modern politics, could take decades — if it ever happens. That's because two miracles will have to be credited to Evans' intercession for her to become California's first saint.

"There's no shortage of people who are Servants of God but who don't go on to become saints," said the Rev. Gary Thomas, the pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Saratoga, Calif. "These are difficult deals, and they don't happen quickly. But having that status certainly puts her up a notch."

Her cause is being led by Michael McDevitt and Michael Huston, cousins whose families were close to Evans. They find themselves navigating a cloistered process that stretches from the Bay Area to Rome.

"We're just two regular guys," said Huston, 65, of Saratoga. "Whether she becomes a saint or not, I don't know. But we feel like something special is happening."

At the center is Evans, who, despite having only a middle-school education, wrote extensively of religious visions she experienced while in deep states of prayer. She died in 1957 and is interred with her husband at Santa Clara Mission Cemetery in a crypt high on a wall with a barely visible nameplate. Those who knew her say that's fitting because Evans was so humble in life.

She was raised in the Mormon faith in Utah and later converted to Catholicism and moving to Southern California.

Dorothy Evans remembers her mother as an excellent cook who loved nature and possessed a gift. Throughout her life, she would slip into coma-like conditions where doctors could barely find a pulse. At those moments, she claimed to be with Jesus — whom she called "the master" — and other saints, sometimes visiting heaven and purgatory. Her daughter added that Cora Evans experienced the stigmata — painful marks that resembled the wounds on the crucified body of Christ.

"As a child, I would come home from school and say, 'How was the master today?' " added Dorothy Evans, 83, a retired teacher who lives in Spokane, Wash. "I didn't realize that it was unusual."

Cora Evans did become known among a circle of Catholic clergy and lay people, and she faced skeptics.

"I would hear people say when they came to the house, 'Who is this woman? She must be a kook. Nobody sees these kinds of things,' " Dorothy Evans said. "But isn't that human nature? We want to see it and touch it ourselves in order to believe it."

In 1992, Cora Evans' spiritual adviser, the Rev. Frank Parrish, asked McDevitt, his nephew, to become the custodian of her writings. McDevitt and Huston formed a nonprofit, the Mystical Humanity of Christ, and organized retreats that promote her core message: Christ is in everyone, and people should try to be more like him.

"Over the years, I would read Cora's writings and wonder: Why is Mike McDevitt reading this? The pope should be reading this," said McDevitt, 72, of Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Two years ago, McDevitt and Huston joined Thomas on a pilgrimage to Rome to gain a better understanding of what sainthood entailed. Church officials wanted to know more about Evans and made clear their interest in having additional saints from the United States, which has a dozen.

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