Duchesne residents will have special reason to celebrate when Pope John Paul II canonizes Mother Rose Philippine Duchesne in Rome on July 3. The new saint is believed to be the namesake of Utah's Duchesne River and subsequently Duchesne City and Duchesne County.
Parishioners and friends of St. Helen's Catholic Church, Roosevelt, and Holy Spirit Mission, Duchesne, will celebrate Blessed Philippine's canonization by dedicating a monument to the holy woman.The occasion is of significance to all American Catholics because a relatively small number Americans have been elevated to sainthood. Mother Duchesne was born in France in 1769, and came to America specifically to labor among the Native American people.
Bishop William K. Weigand of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City will celebrate a Holy Mass July 3 in Duchesne. The dedication ceremony will follow at 1 p.m. and activities will conclude with a meal served by parishioners.
The monument is being constructed by Michael Musich, a parish youth, as an Eagle Scout Project.
Numerous dignitaries have been invited to attend, including the governor, members of Utah's congressional delegation, legistlators and city and county officials.
The process by which the Catholic Church elevates a person to sainthood is long, including an investigation of the life, holiness, activities, writings and miralces attributed to the person. It may take many years. The person is first "beatified," which in Mother Duchesne's case occurred in May 1940. At that time her feast day was set as Nov. 17.
While Blessed Philippine's desire to work among Native American brought her to the United Staes, her talents and energy brought her other assignments instead. Subjegating her own desires, she obediently went about her assigned tasks of establishing schools and convents in the St. Louis and New Orleans areas.
Finally, at age 72, she was permitted to travel to Kansas. She worked among the Potawatomi for only one year, until failing health necessitated her recall to eastern Missouri. She died in 1852.
William H. Ashley explored and named many features in eastern Utah. Because the explorer was in St. Louis at the same time Blessed Philippine worked there, it is believed he honored her in naming Utah's Duchesne River. In fact, parish officials said one source indicates that a foster daughter of Ashley was a student at the school mother Duchesne established at Florissant, Mo., and later entered the novitate there to prepare for the religious life.
It is fitting, said parish officials, that her life work be memorialized in Utah, home of many of the Native american people whom she longed to serve.
Canonization is a papal declaration that the person is now in heaven, and deserves honor and imitation by the faithful.
The first American-born saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton, was cannonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975. She founded the Sisters of Charity, the first American religious order.
Other American saints include St John Neumann, born in Bohemia in 1811 and ordained as a priest in New York. St Francis Xavier Cabrini, canonized in 1950, came to the United States from Italy and has been named patroness of immigrants.
Those who have been beautified, but not yet canonized, include Blessed Rose Rose Duroche. Blessed Katherine Drexel, Blessed Junipero Serra, Blessed Andre Bessett and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American for whom the Catholic Center at Fort Duchesne is named.