Pierre Toussaint

Born into slavery in 1766 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Pierre Toussaint (French for "All Saints") was brought to New York City by his owners in 1787. He eventually gained his freedom, but rather than taking on a spirit of vengeance for having been enslaved, he lived a life of charity. He had a successful hairdressing business and became a philanthropist to the poor. He died in 1853.

Toussaint is the first layperson to be buried in the crypt below the main altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, normally reserved for bishops.

Solanus Casey

Born in Wisconsin in 1870, Solanus Casey became a Capuchin Franciscan friar. Because of academic limitations, he was ordained as a "simplex" priest, that is, one who could celebrate Mass but not preach or hear confessions. But he preached Christian charity in the way he lived his life.

According to the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit,  he "faithfully served the people of ... New York City [and other places] by providing soup for the hungry, kind words for the troubled, and a healing touch for the ill. Wherever he served, people would line up for blocks for a moment with Bl. Solanus."

He died in 1957.

Mother Mary Angeline Teresa (Bridget Teresa McCrory)

A native of Ireland born in 1893, Bridget McCrory joined the Little Sisters of the Poor to take care of elderly who were sick. She was sent to the United States, and in 1926, Mother Angeline, as she was known, was appointed Superior of a Home of the Little Sisters in the Bronx, New York. But she felt that the European way and many of the customs in France, in which she had been formed, did not meet the needs or customs of Americans. The archbishop of New York, Cardinal Patrick Hayes, also felt more could be done for the elderly and encouraged her. So Mother Angeline and six other sisters got permission from Rome to begin the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm.

She died in 1984.


Felix Varela

Like many of New York's saints, Felix Varela was an immigrant. Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1788, then part of New Spain, he became a priest and advocated for independence and for the abolition of slavery. These stances put his life in jeopardy, and he ended up in the relative safety of New York.

As vicar general of the then-Diocese of New York, he was instrumental in forming a plan to welcome Irish immigrants. He even learned the Irish language for this reason. Perhaps he serves as inspiration for today's Church in New York—led in recent decades by archbishops with Irish surnames—which reaches out very much to Spanish-speaking (and other) immigrants.

Fr. Varela died in 1853.

Isaac Hecker

Born in New York in 1819 of parents who had come from Germany, Isaac Hecker grew up in a non-Catholic family but eventually became a Catholic himself. He became a priest of the Redemptorist order, but left to found a new group, the Paulist Fathers.

"He worked, during the prime of his life, with immense energy," says the Catholic Encyclopedia. "In addition to his duties as superior, he continued his work as a lecturer; he notably promoted the apostolate of the press among Catholics in America ... and created a new movement in Catholic literary activities. ... His object in view was always simple: the propagation of Catholicity."

Fr. Hecker died in 1888.

Rose Hawthorne Lathrop

Somehow it seems appropriate that a New York saint would have a famous "connection." In this case, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop was the daughter of the celebrated American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne. Born in 1851 in Lenox, Massachusetts, Rose traveled through Europe at an early age because her father was the United States' representative to England. Though the family was Protestant, Rose's exposure to the Catholic Church and to Pope Pius IX softened her up to the suspect Roman religion.

Later, she married, and both she and her husband became Catholic. Because of longstanding tensions in their marriage, not the least of which was her husband's drinking, Rose obtained permission from the Church for a permanent separation. She took up nursing and became keenly aware of the needs of cancer patients, especially among the poor. She increased her efforts to care for such patients in New York City, and after her husband's death, she founded a religious community to continue this work, becoming Mother Mary Alphonsa, O.P. To this day, the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne take care of terminally ill cancer patients free of charge.

Mother Mary Alphonsa died in 1926.

Fulton John Sheen

Soon after the body of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979) was moved out of St. Patrick's Cathedral to the cathedral in Peoria, Illinois, the Vatican announced that the pioneering radio and television evangelist and instructor of many high-profile converts would be beatified. So much can be said of Sheen, but perhaps Pope John Paul II said it best when he embraced the aged bishop in St. Patrick's just months before he died. The pope said, “You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a loyal son of the Church.”

Catherine de Hueck Doherty

Catherine Kolyschkine (1896-1985) was born in Russia and served as a nurse during World War I. After the Bolshevik Revolution, she and her husband eventually settled in Canada. In the wake of a separation from her husband (and later annulment) and conversion to Catholicism, she sold all her possessions and, in the words of the website of her cause for canonization, "went to live a hidden life in the slums of Toronto, desiring to console her beloved Lord as a lay apostle by being one with his poor." She and some friends attempted to live a radical life of Christian poverty in the spirit of St. Francis. But their project, which they called Friendship House, was widely misunderstood.

Catholic civil rights proponent Fr. John LaFarge invited the group to New York's Harlem section. "Catherine saw the beauty of the Black people and was horrified by the injustices being done to them," the website says. "She traveled the country decrying racial discrimination against Blacks."

After an internal dispute at Friendship House, she moved to Combermere, Ontario, with her second husband, Eddie Doherty. She began to serve those in need, and the couple eventually began a training center for the Catholic lay apostolate. The community that grew up around this became known as Madonna House. Similar foundations have been opened around the world.

"In response to the deepening dilemmas of the Western world, Catherine offered the spirituality of her Russian past," the website explains. "She introduced the concept of poustinia, ... the Russian word for 'desert,' which in its spiritual context is a place where a person meets God through solitude, prayer and fasting. Catherine’s vision and practical way of living the Gospel in ordinary life became recognized as a remedy to the depersonalizing effects of modern technology."

Dorothy Day

Born in Brooklyn in 1897, Dorothy Day as a college student became a socialist. In New York, she worked as a journalist and later a nurse and all the while was seeking ways to better address social ills. After having a child, she became a Catholic. She cofounded, with Peter Maurin, the Catholic Worker Movement, which included a newspaper and houses of hospitality.

She was also a vocal activist opposing war and nuclear weapons and fighting for civil and workers' rights, often going to jail for her role in protests. During the Vietnam war, she helped found Pax Christi.

A deep spirituality and love for the Catholic Church sustained her through all her work. She died in 1980.

Terence J. Cooke

Terence J. Cooke (1921-1983) was born in New York and became a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He worked in parishes, Catholic Charities and the seminary and also taught social work at Fordham University. At the death of Cardinal Francis J. Spellman, his predecessor, he was an auxiliary bishop of New York. He chose as his episcopal motto the phrase from the Lord's Prayer, "Thy Will Be Done," which must have served him well as he faced leukemia later in life. As archbishop of New York from 1968 until his death, he quietly battled the disease, never complaining of the difficult treatments he had to endure.

On the day of his installation as archbishop, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Cooke immediately went to Harlem to plead for racial peace and later attended King's funeral.

During his tenure, Cooke founded Birthright, which offers women alternatives to abortion; a housing program to help the disadvantaged, and Courage, a ministry that promotes chastity and support for those who experience same-sex attraction.

In an open letter completed days before his death, he wrote, "The gift of life, God's special gift, is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age."

Bernard J. Quinn

Bernard Quinn was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Irish immigrant parents, in 1888. He became a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn. After serving as a chaplain in France during the First World War, he received permission to start an apostolate to Black Catholics, founding St. Peter Claver Church.

With the growing state of homelessness among Black children in the late 1920’s, Fr. Quinn bought land in the Long Island town of Wading River in order to build an orphanage. He faced fierce opposition from locals and the Ku Klux Klan. Twice, his orphanage was burned down. His life was in danger but he was “ready to shed the last drop of his life’s blood for the least” among his people.

According to a website for the cause of canonization, Fr. Quinn's whole life was "oriented towards the people, serving their spiritual and human needs in the vicissitudes of their daily lives. ... Father’s own heart, like the heart of Christ, flowed over with endless outpouring of God’s love for those who were down-and-out, the hapless sinner and [those] who needed his services."

He died in 1940, at the age of 52.

Francis Xavier Ford

Francis Xavier Ford (1892-1952) was born in Brooklyn and became the first seminarian for the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, now known as the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. He was also one of three Maryknoll priests who were sent on the first overseas mission for the U.S. Church, departing for China on September 8, 1918.

According to Maryknoll, Ford (in center of photo) spent his first seven years in Yeungkong. In 1925, he went to serve in Kaying, and for the next 27 years his leadership was crucial to the development of Christian communities in that part of China. Pope Pius XI, in 1935, named him the first bishop of Kaying.

"Bishop Ford experienced mission as more than just building structures," Maryknoll said. "He understood the essence of mission as building person-to-person relationships. The one structure he did create was a seminary for the education and training of young Chinese priests."

He accompanied his people through the Japanese attacks on China, including Kaying, as well as the civil war between the Communist and Nationalist forces.

After the Communist party seized power, Bishop Ford and other Maryknollers were viewed as agents of American imperialism.

"Chinese officials soon began closing churches and parish houses," the missionary society said. "When the Unites States entered into war with North Korea, tensions grew and Bishop Ford was prohibited from participating in activities outside of Kaying. The first Maryknoll priests and Sisters were arrested and deported during December 1950."

Shortly after that, Bishop Ford was investigated and interrogated for four months. Arrested during April 1951, he was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to indefinite imprisonment in Guangzhou. His health declined rapidly and he died less than a year later.