October 20, 2006

St. Theodora Guérin Keepsake Edition

Saint maker: In Rome, Andrea Ambrosi serves as advocate for canonization

Andrea Ambrosi

Photo caption: Andrea Ambrosi, postulator for the Cause of Canonization of the Servant of God Simon Bruté, first bishop of Vincennes, is pictured at the opening session of the Cause on Sept. 12, 2005, at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. Ambrosi also played a key role in the canonization cause of Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin.

By Sean Gallagher

Andrea Ambrosi could be described as a “saint maker.”

This was a term used by religion journalist Kenneth Woodward in his 1990 book Making Saints to describe those who serve as advocates of potential saints in the rigorous investigative process established by the Holy See’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The Catholic Church teaches that only God truly “makes” saints. But in the sacramental world view of the Church, there is an acknowledgement that God works through his creation and through human agents.

Ambrosi is one such agent. In his work for the congregation, he served in this role for the canonization cause of St. Theodora Guérin.

For more than a decade, traveling many times between his office in Rome to Indiana, he played a key role in shepherding her cause every step of the way to the Oct. 15 canonization liturgy at St. Peter’s Square.

Ambrosi, a layman, was recently interviewed by The Criterion about his work for the cause of Blessed Mother Theodore.

Q: How long have you been a postulator in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and how did you enter into this ministry?

A: I became a postulator following the apostolic constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister, which came into effect in 1983, which allowed laypeople to occupy this role.

In reality, I had been working on causes of beatification and canonization since 1972 as a trainee and since 1977 as a counselor and defense attorney, a figure provided for by the former norms in effect according to the Codex Iuris Canonici of 1917.

Q: You have helped shepherd many causes through the congregation. At present, you are the postulator of the cause of the Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté and of the cause of the Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen, known to millions of Americans.

Please name some of the other causes that you have worked on that might be notable to Catholics in the United States.

A: In addition to these two American causes, I am also the Postulator of other causes such as those of Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton, Cardinal Terence Cooke, Father Nelson Baker, Mother Henriette Delille, and other foundresses who were working in the United States in Illinois and New York.

Q: When and how did you become the postulator of the cause of Venerable Mother Theodore Guérin?

I became postulator of the cause on Aug. 11, 1994. The cause was offered to me byc Msgr. Robert Sarno, an official of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Q: What would you say are some of the unique aspects of the life and cause of Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin?

Mother Theodore’s most unique aspect was her strength, nurtured by the strength of her prayer.

She did not exclude anyone from her prayers and dedicated her life to helping people know God and live a better life. She was able to bring out the best in anyone and help them reach impossible goals.

She deeply loved God, the people of God, the Sisters of Providence, the Church and the people she served.

Q: Despite the inherent uniqueness of each miracle, did the healing of Philip McCord impress you in any particular way? Was the fact that he was not Catholic and even not a particularly religious man make his healing, in your opinion, have a special meaning for men and women today?

The fact that he was not Catholic, yet he entered a Catholic church and prayed, in his own, unusual way, but he prayed to Mother Theodore Guérin for her intercession on his behalf. This prayer came from the heart. That is what impressed me.

Q: Will you be present at the canonization Mass? Will this liturgy be special for you, and if so, in what way?

A: Yes. Yes, it will, especially because it brings me great pleasure to see causes from the United States of America, something you do not see very often. To see this brings me particular joy.

Q: Do you see something of the character of Blessed Mother Theodore in Providence Sister Marie Kevin Tighe, the vice postulator of the cause?

A: Yes, there is a great tenacity in furthering the message of love and compassion, characteristics which are particular to the Sisters of Providence.

Q: Although the canonization of Blessed Mother Theodore is ultimately due to the heroic virtue she showed during her life and God’s answering of her prayer for Philip McCord, how would you say that her Oct. 15 canonization will be a credit to the ministry of Sister Marie Kevin?

A: I would say that the spreading of awareness of Mother Theodore Guérin and her ministry as well as the diffusion of veneration to Mother Theodore is a credit to the ministry of Sister Marie Kevin.

Q: Having worked on so many other causes, how would you appraise the work that Msgr. Frederick Easton [vicar judicial for the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal] and all of his collaborators carried out in investigating this miracle?

A: Excellent. Theirs is one of the best ecclesiastical tribunals in the U.S.A. I have known Msgr. Frederick Easton since the time that we studied canon law together in Rome. I have great respect for him, and the way in which he conducted the investigation into the miracle is proof of how well this tribunal works.

Q: How would you describe the way in which the mundane human tendencies of being deliberate, scientific and legally precise intermingle with the unexpected, unexplainable and transcendent nature of miracles in the canonical investigations of purported healings?

A: This is the proof of the extreme care which is taken and demanded in carrying out a trial on an alleged miracle.

This just goes to show that only true miracles manage to pass such scrupulous investigation. The process is intentionally made very difficult, precisely so that only true miracles come through such a severe trial.

Neither should we forget that the Holy Father is the one to declare a new saint. We must naturally put the Holy Father in such a position so as to be absolutely certain of what he is announcing to the world ex cathedra. †

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