California woman who wrote extensively of herreligious visions is put on path toward sainthood
The church went on a saint-naming binge during the tenure of Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005. His reign is sometimes called the "saint factory" because he elevated 482 saints — compared with 98 by all of his 20th-century predecessors.
"He's the Barry Bonds of saint-making," said Bill Briggs, author of "The Third Miracle." "It's very hard to become a saint, but John Paul II watered down the process, and he did it for a brilliant reason. Saints are a great marketing tool. Any time there's a new saint, it's great publicity for the church, especially in the new regions."
In March 2012, the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced that it was considering Evans for sainthood — giving her the Servant of God title. Over the next few years, theologians will examine her life. If that research receives the Vatican's approval that she was virtuous, Evans will be considered "Venerable."
However, the final steps are the hardest: two verified miracles, usually in the form of unexplained medical cures, which come after prayers for her intercession.
Briggs, whose book chronicles the 2006 canonization of 19th-century American nun St. Mother Theodore Guerin, calls miracles the "currency of sainthood."
"But something is only very rarely accepted as a miracle," he added. "The church is all about scientific proof. The process is incredibly intensive, forensic and takes a very long time."
It's also expensive. Evans' cause is being funded through donations of about $700,000 that McDevitt and Huston also are using to hold the free retreats to help spread her name and for the upcoming publication of her writings.
There is some evidence that there may have been miracles in her name, but those likely don't meet the level of documentation the Vatican requires. But McDevitt and Huston hope as she becomes better known, and more people pray for her help, there will be other miraculous occurrences that can be more thoroughly investigated.
The Rev. Joseph Grimaldi, who is the postulator — or chief promoter — for Evans, said the church will be more interested in her life story than the mystical visions. Sainthood, he said, is about creating inspirational role models for others to emulate.
"Cora Evans might be a great example of someone who lived an ordinary life, was a good person, and should be imitated by living our lives in a prayerful way," said Grimaldi, 73, who had an investigative role in the canonization of two saints in Hawaii. "But it's not going to be an easy case to make, and Rome even has told us that. She is not Mother Teresa."
Dorothy Evans said her mother considered her work completed when she finished writing shortly before dying of cancer. Now, the daughter wonders.
"I know Mother would have fun doing something for other people," she said if any purported miracles are proved. "But I bet she's glad that she's in heaven now because I don't think she would like all this attention one bit."