Ten saints of the New Millennium
World Youth Day 2002 - Toronto

“Just as salt gives flavour to food and light illumines the darkness, so too holiness gives full meaning to life and makes it reflect God's glory. How many saints, especially young saints, can we count in the Church's history! In their love for God their heroic virtues shone before the world, and so they became models of life which the Church has held up for imitation by all. “

– Pope John Paul II

For World Youth Day 2002, Pope John Paul II offered us some wonderful models of holiness: Agnes of Rome, Andrew of Phú Yên, Pedro Calungsod, Josephine Bakhita, Thérèse of Lisieux, Pier Giorgio Frassati, Marcel Callo, Francisco Castelló Aleu and Kateri Tekakwitha, the young Iroquois called "the Lily of the Mohawks". The World Youth Day 2002 National Team also turned often to Saint Gianna Beretta Molla for inspiration and intercession throughout the preparation of the great events of 2002.

One of the great efforts and gifts of Pope John Paul II has been his call for all Catholics to be saints. During his Pontificate, he beatified 1338 men and women and canonized 482 new saints. Holiness is not reserved for priests and religious alone. All people, no matter what their walk of life or background, are invited by Jesus Christ to follow Him perfectly. This conformation to Christ is the essence of a saint. ...read more

Pope John Paul II, in addressing this "universal call to holiness," has particularly encouraged young people to accept the invitation of Christ to become saints. As he said in his preparatory letter to WYD 2002, "it is the nature of human beings, and especially youth, to seek the Absolute, the meaning and fullness of life. Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals!"

To be a saint is no light undertaking, as the Pope is well aware. That is why one of his most repeated phrases to young people is "Be not afraid." No matter what the difficulties may be, the grace of Christ can overcome all objections and obstacles. Confidence in God's grace, not in ourselves, is perhaps one of the first steps that we can make in the road to sainthood. What exactly does it mean to be holy? Does it mean to say certain prayers? Is it merely doing good deeds? Holiness goes much beyond this. It is a way of life that involves commitment and activity. It is not a passive endeavor. It is a continuous choice to deepen one's relationship with God and to then allow this relationship to guide all of one's actions in the world.

This call to holiness is not something alien to who we are as human beings. Rather it is the very goal and final fulfillment of our human personhood. Christ calls us to be the human beings we were meant to be. As the Pope so movingly said to young people in St. Louis: "Remember: Christ is calling you; the Church needs you; the Pope believes in you and he expects great things of you!"

– Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.

St. Agnes of Rome

Virgin and Martyr – Model of Purity

Agnes, a young Christian convert, is honored as one of the four great virgin martyrs of the Christian Church. She died for her faith in the early fourth century during the reign of Diocletian (284-305), the Roman emperor who ordered the last great persecution of Christians, starting in early 303. St. Agnes, not only had no desire to marry, but was prepared to die for the sake of her faith and her virginity as "the bride of Christ", rather than become the wife of the son of a Roman prefect. She was martyred when she was only 12. Her death made a profound impression and she became one of the most widely honored of Roman martyrs and one of the most popular of Christian saints. ...read more
Agnes is regarded as the patron saint of young women and the special protectress of bodily purity. After her death, the young saint was buried in her parents' household cemetery which was located a short distance from the city limits of Rome. At first a modest chapel was placed over the saint's grave. After Christianity became one of the lawful religions of the Roman Empire, Agnes's shrine was enlarged and transformed. According to legend, Constantina, Constantine's eldest daughter by his first wife, Fausta, was afflicted with leprosy. She was reputedly cured of the disease after she had prayed as a pilgrim at Agnes's tomb. The shrine, now known as the Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls, is famous for its mosaics and galleried nave and for housing the relics of St. Agnes, in an ornate silver sarcophagus solidly encased beneath the altar.

Agnes' symbol is a lamb, because her name means "pure" in Greek and is similar to the Latin word Agnus, which means lamb. When popes confer a portion of their power on bishops, they send them a woolen cloth called a pallium. These are woven from the wool of lambs consecrated on St. Agnes' day. Her feast day is celebrated on January 21.

Blessed Francisco Castello i Aleu

Two hundred and thirty-three martyrs – priests, religious and lay people – died for their faith in the religious persecution surrounding the Spanish Civil War, from 1936 to 1939. One of these people was 22-year-old Francisco Castello i Aleu, a chemist and a member of Catholic Action. In full awareness of the seriousness of the situation, he did not run and hide, but gave his youth as an offering of love for God and his brothers and sisters. Pope John Paul II beatified these 233 martyrs on March 11, 2001. Francisco obtained his bachelor's degree in chemistry on February 6, 1934. "I mixed with him often," testified one of his friends, "but I never saw him show abruptness. On the contrary, he was able to show gentleness and kindness, all the while remaining open and outgoing." Francisco mixed with companions who were perhaps bogged down in lust and materialism. Wherever he was, there was joy. ...read more
He had a big influence on the hearts of all his friends." Francisco was hired as an engineer in a chemical fertilizer company in Lleida. Every evening, he gave free courses to the factory workers and to the inhabitants of a poor neighborhood in Lleida, a seat of anticlericalism.

In May 1936, on the Feast of Mary Help of Christians, Francisco became engaged to María Pelegri, a young woman whose piety was on a level with his own. Their relationship remained chaste. On the following July 1st, Francisco, who had been drafted, was sent to the fortress in Lleida. On the evening of the following day, the fortress fell to a Marxist 'Military Committee.' On the night of July 20-21, Francisco was rudely awakened by the new commander of the fortress who accused him of being a 'fascist.' Francisco was locked up with twenty-some prisoners in a former chapel – no opening but for a tiny ventilator, no hygienic facilities. On Saturday, September 12, the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, Francisco was transferred to the provincial prison. He went from cell to cell, looking for any discouraged prisoner, created a choir and encouraged recreation – chess, checkers, etc. He could not bear that, to mock them, the members of the militia forced the priests to carry out the most repugnant duties, and so he took responsibility for cleaning the latrines and the garbage dumps.

The evening of September 29th, the six prisoners were taken away in a truck. Francisco started to sing the Credo, and the others joined in. To a militia member who slapped him to make him be quiet, he replied, "I forgive you, because you do not know what you are doing.” At the end of a path, a portal led to a little closed-off space, the stage for the executions, where an altar and a stone cross stand today... Facing the firing squad, Francisco shouted: "One moment, please! I forgive you all, and I'll meet you in eternity!" His hands clasped, his eyes fixed on the sky and a prayer on his lips, he stood facing the executioners. A voice ordered, "Fire!" Francisco let out a last shout: "Long live Christ the King!" These were the last words of a young twenty-two-year-old Spaniard who died for the faith during the Spanish Civil War, on September 29, 1936.

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Mohawk Mystic of North America

Known as the "Lily of the Mohawks", and the "Genevieve of New France" a Native Indian virgin of the Mohawk tribe, born according to some authorities at the Turtle Castle of Ossernenon, according to others at the village of Gandaouge, in 1656; died at Caughnawaga, Canada, April 17, 1680. Her mother was a Christian Algonquin who had been captured by the Iroquois and saved from a captive's fate by the father of , to whom she also bore a son. When Tekakwitha was about four years old, her parents and brother died of small-pox, and the child was adopted by her aunts and a uncle who had become chief of the Turtle clan. Although small-pox had marked her face and seriously impaired her eyesight and her manner was reserved and shrinking, her aunts began when she was yet very young to form marriage projects for her, from which, as she grew older, she shrank with great aversion. ...read more
In 1667 the Jesuit missionaries Fremin, Bruyas, and Pierron, accompanying the Mohawk deputies who had been to Quebec to conclude peace with the French, spent three days in the lodge of Tekakwitha's uncle. From them she received her first knowledge of Christianity, but although she eagerly accepted it in her heart she did not at that time ask to be baptized. When Kateri was eighteen, Father Jacques de Lamberville arrived to take charge of the mission which included the Turtle clan, and from him, at her earnest request, Tekakwitha received baptism. From that moment onward, she practised her religion unflinchingly in the face of almost unbearable opposition, till finally her uncle's lodge ceased to be a place of protection to her and she was assisted by some Christian Natives to escape to Caughnawaga on the St. Laurence. Here she lived in the cabin of Anastasia Tegonhatsihonga, a Christian Native woman, her extraordinary sanctity impressing not only her own people but the French and the missionaries. Her mortifications were extreme, and many say that she attained the most perfect union with God in prayer.

Kateri’s whole life was devoted to teaching prayers to the children and helping the sick and the aged until she was struck with an illness that was to claim her life. On April 17th, 1680, on Wednesday of Holy Week, she died at 3 o'clock in the afternoon at the age of twentyfour. Her last words were: "Jesos Konoronkwa". "Jesus I Love You". Fifteen minutes after her death before the eyes of two Jesuits and all the Native Indians that could fit into the room, the ugly scars on her face suddenly disappeared.

Upon her death devotion to her began immediately to be manifested by her people. Many pilgrims visit her grave in Caughnawaga where a monument to her memory was built in 1884. On June 22, 1980, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II. On October 21, 2012, Blessed Kateri was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI during the Synod on the New Evangelization in Rome.

Blessed Pedro Calungsod of Visayas

Filipino catechist

Few details of Pedro Calungsod’s early life prior to missionary work and death are known. Pedro was a young, lay missionary and evangelizer of his time, traveling out of the country to reach out to other people to proclaim Christ. Pedro traveled to Guam with Blessed Father Diego Luis San Vitores (beatified in 1985) and there encountered hostile natives. The 17-year old Pedro suffered a Martyr’s death in modern-day Guam on April 2, 1672, while trying to defend a Jesuit priest, Fr. San Vitores from those who hated Christianity. The attacker hit Calungsod with a spear and split his skull with a machete. The bodies of the Jesuit and the young Pedro were then tied together and thrown into the sea, never to be found again.

Young Pedro was beatified on March 5, 2000. From the homily of Pope John Paul II:
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"'If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven' (Mt. 10:32). From his childhood, Pedro Calungsod declared himself unwaveringly for Christ and responded generously to his call. Young people today can draw encouragement and strength from the example of Pedro, whose love of Jesus inspired him to devote his teenage years to teaching the faith as a lay catechist. Leaving family and friends behind, Pedro willingly accepted the challenge put to him by Father Diego de San Vitores to join him on the Mission to the Chamorros. In a spirit of faith, marked by strong Eucharistic and Marian devotion, Pedro undertook the demanding work asked of him and bravely faced the many obstacles and difficulties he met. In the face of imminent danger, Pedro would not forsake Father Diego, but as a 'good soldier of Christ' preferred to die at the missionary's side. Today intercedes for the young. In particular those of his native Philippines, and he challenges them. Young friends, do not hesitate to follow the example of Pedro, who 'pleased God and was loved by him' (Wis 4:10) and who, having come to perfection in so short a time, lived a full life (cf. ibid., v.13)"

The faith that was planted in the Marianas in 1668 did not die with Padre Diego, Pedro Calungsod and the first missionaries. On World Mission Sunday in October, 2012, during the Synod on the New Evangelization, how fitting it was that this young, heroic witness, Pedro Calungsod, became the second Filipino saint after St. Lorenzo Ruiz, who himself was an altar server martyred in Japan while serving in a mission there in 1637. It is about them that Tertullian wrote: "Our numbers increase every time we are cut down by you: the blood of martyrs is the seed of [new] Christians" (Apol. 50, 13; CCC, PL 1,603).

St. Therese of Lisieux

Doctor of the Church

Therese Martin was born on January 2, 1873, in France. After their mother died, her two older sisters, Pauline and Marie, entered the Carmelite convent of Lisieux. These losses plunged young Therese into an emotional illness from which she was miraculously cured by the “Smiling Virgin” Mary. Early on, Therese dreamed of becoming a Carmelite nun like her sisters. Her determination led to her being admitted at age 15. She took the name “Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.” The early days were difficult ones; she discovered the challenges of contemplative prayer and the austerity of the convent Rule. Beginning in 1894, she began to write her spiritual autobiography. In doing so she became aware of the Lord’s mercy but also of her “littleness” before him. Thus was born her “little way,” a path of trust and giving over of oneself to the mercy and love of Jesus. ...read more
When she was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1896, Therese began “a dark night of the soul” – a time of great spiritual darkness and discouragement. And yet, her willingness to give continued: she always offered to do the least enjoyable tasks, which for her was a way to be “salt and light” in her community. As she faced death, she wrote, “I’m not really going to die. I’m just entering into another life.” She died on September 30, 1897, after suffering much agony. During this time of suffering she said, “I feel as if my mission is about to begin… I want to spend Eternity in Heaven doing good here on earth.”

One year after her death, her spiritual autobiography was published and was a great international success. Although she was almost unknown when she was buried, her grave became a pilgrimage site and reports of miracles soon appeared. Beatified in 1923 and canonized in 1925, Therese was also named “Patron of the Missions.”

At World Youth Day 1997 in Paris, Pope John Paul II announced that he would name Therese “Doctor of the Universal Church” because of the depth of her spiritual writings. Later that year on October 19, 1997, Mission Sunday, Pope John Paul II proclaimed St. Thérèse of Lisieux the third female Doctor of the Church, joining Sts. Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena who were proclaimed in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. Until 1970, there were 32 doctors of the Church, all of them men. As the youngest theologian of the church, her writings and life emphasized the love of Jesus and the mercy of God.

Blessed Andrew of Phu Yen

Protomartyr of Vietnam

Andrew, from Phu Yen (1624 – 1644), became a martyr for his faith. Born to a poor mother in the province of Phu Yen, he went on to study with the Jesuits and was baptized when he was sixteen years old. He became a catechist and evangelized with zeal, filled with the love of God and wanting salvation for everyone. In 1644, he was captured by soldiers in the name of the king, who wanted to rid the kingdom of Christianity. On July 26, 1644, he was decapitated as he cried out, “Jesus!” An inspiration to Vietnamese catechists, he was beatified in Rome by John Paul II on March 5, 2000. In Blessed Andrew's beatification homily, Pope John Paul II preached these words:
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"If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in Heaven" (Mt. 10:32). Andrew of Phu Yen in Viet Nam made these words of the Lord his own with heroic intensity. From the day he received Baptism at the age of sixteen, he strove to develop a deep spiritual life. Amid the difficulties to which all who adhered to the Christian faith were subjected, he lived as a faithful witness to the risen Christ and tirelessly proclaimed the Gospel in the 'Maison Dieu' association of catechists. For love of the Lord he spent all his energy in serving the Church and assisting priests in their mission. He persevered to the point of bloodshed in order to remain faithful to the love of the One to whom he had totally given himself."

His feast day is July 26, the date of his martyrdom.

St. Josephina Bakhita

Model of True Emancipation

Called the “Madre Moretta” (the Black Mother), Josephina Bakhita was a former slave who became a Canossian Sister (Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa) in Italy. She was born in the Sudan, in northeastern Africa, about 1870, and at the age of nine was stolen by slavers. The slave traders gave her the name Bakhita, meaning "the Lucky One." She escaped from these slavers only to be caught by another, who took her as a gift to his daughter in El Obeid. There she was treated well until she broke a vase. Then she was sold to a Turkish officer who sold her again in the market in Khartoum. She was brought by the Italian vicecouncil, who returned to Italy, taking Josephine with him. There she was given to a Signora Michieli in Genoa. ...read more
She was sent to a convent by her new owner, to be educated in the school operated by the Daughters of Charity of Canossa. Josephina became a Christian on January 9, 1890, and was baptized by the cardinal patriarch. She refused to leave the convent after discovering her religious vocation, despite the demands of Signora Michieli, who claimed ownership. The cardinal patriarch and the king's procurator were called upon to mediate the matter, and they decided in favor of Josephina's vocation. Josephina was welcomed into the Canossian convent, and she made her novitiate and took religious vows. Her holiness and devotion were demonstrated in her labors as a cook, gate keeper, and keeper of linens. It was obvious that God had brought Josephina out of Africa to glorify him among the Europeans. With this in mind, Josephina, the Madre Moretta, traveled throughout Italy to raise funds for the missions. She served as a Canossian for half a century, dying in Schio, Italy, on February 8, 1947, and was revered by the people of her adopted land. She has not been forgotten by the Sudanese either. Her portrait hangs in the cathedral at Khartoum.

Pope John Paul II beatified Josephina on May 17, 1992, in the presence of three hundred Canossian Sisters and pilgrims, many from the Sudan. The same Pope proclaimed her a saint on October 1, 2000. During his homily at her canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II said that in St. Josephine Bakhita:

“We find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.”

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Man of the Beatitudes

Pier Giorgio Frassati was born in Turin (Italy) on April 6, 1901. His mother was a painter. His father, a notorious agnostic, was founder of the liberal newspaper La Stampa and influential in politics, he was named Senator and Ambassador of Italy in Germany. Pier Giorgio grew up with a younger sister, Luciana. Later he attended a Jesuit school, where he joined the Marian Sodality. He was given permission to receive communion daily, which was rare at that time. He developed a deep spiritual life, which he shared freely with his many friends. The Eucharist and the Virgin Mary were the two poles of his prayer life. At the age of 17, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society. ...read more
He devoted most of his spare time to serving the sick and the needy, taking care of orphans and of the soldiers from the First World War. Pier Giorgio saw Jesus in the poor. When a friend asked him how he could stand going into the filthy places he visited as he served the poor, he answered: “Remember that it is Jesus that you are going to visit: I see, around the sick and the poor, a special aura of light which we, the rich, do not have.”

Like his father, he was a strong anti-fascist militant, and never hid his political opinions. Athletic and energetic, he was surrounded by friends, on whom he had great influence. Pier Giorgio chose not to become a priest, but to preach the Gospel as a layman. Before he received his university degree in mining engineering, he contracted poliomyelitis, perhaps– according to some physicians – from visiting the poor. After six days of agony, Pier Giorgio died at the age of 24, on July 4, 1925. His last thoughts were for the poor: the night before his death, he wrote to a friend, asking him to buy (and charge to his own account) medicine for a poor person whom he visited regularly. At Pier Giorgio’s funeral, the streets of Turin were filled with people who came to mourn his death. Most of them were unknown to his family: clergy, students, and the poor whom Pier Giorgio had served to the point of forgetting his own needs.

On May 20, 1990, Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio Frassati, whom he called “the man of the Beatitudes” and whom he had always admired. Frassati’s life was a luminous illustration of the incarnation of the Gospel in a considerate love for the poor. His life was guided by the Spirit of the Beatitudes, and showed that giving up one’s own desires to serve the Lord is a choice that is possible and that leads to happiness; that holiness is possible for all; and that only charity can give birth to hope and allow it to grow in a better world, in the hearts of the people.

Blessed Marcel Callo

Martyr of Mauthhausen Concentration Camp

The martyrs of the era of World War II were remarkable men and women of valor. Some endured years of horror and pain, and others were killed in sudden violence. Blessed Marcel Callo endured several forms of martyrdom before dying, but he entered the arena of suffering with a willing heart, as he explained it, "as a missionary." Marcel was born on December 6, 1921, in Rennes, France, one of nine children, and was baptized two days later. Educated in local schools, he was apprenticed to a printer when he was almost thirteen. Marcel also belonged to the J.O.C., the Christian Worker's Youth organization and was conspicuous for his devout nature. He maintained his job, never missed attending the sacraments, and become engaged in August, 1942. ...read more

His happiness came in the midst of the conquest and occupation of France by the forces of the Third Reich, and, only after a few months of his engagement, the full weight of Nazi oppression reached Rennes. Marcel was forced to enter the Service of Obligatory Work, a program that transported young French men to Germany as slave labor. Marcel was assigned to a factory in Zella-Mehlis, Germany. He spent his time there organizing the Christian workers and rebuilding their morale under the dangerous and often inhumane conditions of forced labor. The diets and repressive labor schedules resulted in Marcel's physical collapse, but he forced himself to continue his work and his leadership. He even arranged for a French Mass, an act that brought him to the attention of the Gestapo, the dread Nazi secret police. In April, 1944, Marcel was arrested for being "too Catholic" and sent to Mauthausen, the Gusen 2 concentration camp called "the hell of hells" by the few who survived. There he prayed and encouraged his fellow prisoners for the five months before his death from malnutrition and related conditions on March 19, 1945. Pope John Paul II beatified Marcel on October 4, 1987, declaring:

“Yes, Marcel met the Cross. First in France. Then torn from the affection of his family and of a fiancée whom he loved tenderly and chastely – in Germany, where he re-launches the J.O.C. with some friends, several of whom also died witnesses of the Lord Jesus. Chased by the Gestapo, Marcel continued until the end. Like the Lord, he loved his own until the end and his entire life became Eucharist. Having reached the eternal joy of God, he testifies that the Christian faith does not separate earth from heaven. heaven is prepared on earth in justice and love. When one loves, one is already "blessed". Colonel Tibodo, who had seen thousands of prisoners die, was present on the morning of 19 March 1945; he testifies insistently and with emotion: Marcel had the appearance of a saint."

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

Mother, Doctor, and Lover of Life (1922-1962)

Gianna Beretta Molla was born in Magenta (Milan), Italy, on October 4, 1922, the 10th of 13 children. From her earliest youth, Gianna accepted the gift of faith and received an excellent Christian education from her parents. After earning degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero (near Magenta) in 1950. She specialized in pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and the poor. On September 24, 1955, Gianna Beretta married Pietro Molla, an engineer, in St. Martin's Basilica in Magenta. Together they would have four children: Pierluigi, Mariolina, Laura and Gianna Emaunela. ...read more
Gianna met the demands of mother, wife, medical doctor with simplicity and great balance. She loved culture, fashion and beauty. She played piano, was a painter, enjoyed tennis, mountain climbing, skiing and traveling.

In September 1961, towards the end of the second month of pregnancy with her fourth child, physicians diagnosed a serious fibroma in the uterus that required surgery. One of the options given to Gianna by her doctors was an abortion in order to save her own life. Gianna had to make a heroic decision. Gianna entrusted herself to prayer and Providence said to her doctor: "If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child--I insist on it. Save the baby."

On Holy Saturday morning, April 21, 1962, her daughter Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, one week later on Easter Saturday, April 28, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of "Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you," Gianna died. The young mother was only 39 years old. Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1994 during the International Year of the Family, she was canonized ten years later by the same Pope on May 16, 2004 at the Vatican. In an age when permanent commitment is widely discouraged, when human life is cheap and disposable and family life is under siege, when abortion is all too available, when sacrifice and virtue are absent in so many lives; when many in the medical profession have little concern for the dignity and sacredness of every human life; when suffering is seen as a nuisance without any redemptive meaning; when goodness, joy, simplicity and beauty are suspect; St. Gianna Beretta Molla shows this world, gripped by a culture of death, an alternative gospel way of compelling beauty. Her action at the end of her life, in saving young Gianna Emanuela, her daughter, was heroic in that she prepared for her final action every day of her life. Her final decision for life was the natural flowering and culmination of an extraordinary life of virtue and holiness, selflessness and quiet joy. St. Gianna Molla continues to remind the church and the world of the necessity of a consistent ethic of life, from the earliest to the final moments of human life. She is the patron saint of the Salt and Light Television Network.

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☰ List
St. Agnes of Rome
Blessed Andrew of Phu Yen
Blessed Pedro Calungsod of Visayas
St. Josephina Bakhita
St. Therese of Lisieux
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Blessed Marcel Callo
Blessed Francisco Castello i Aleu
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
St. Gianna Beretta Molla