To honor the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Benedict XVI has announced a Year of Faith, starting October 11 and ending November 24, 2013. Pope Benedict has encouraged Catholics to study the lives of the saints as part of the Year of Faith. Here are 10 American saints Catholics can remember during this Year of Faith, as developed by Jeannine Marino, program specialist for the Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):
1. St. Isaac Jogues, SJ, a missionary and one of the North American martyrs, traveled from France to the new world shortly after his ordination. In 1641, he and his companions were captured by the Iroquois, who tortured and killed most of them. He was killed with a tomahawk in 1646 and canonized in 1930.
2. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, MSC, the first U.S. citizen to be canonized, came to the United States as a missionary from Italy. She founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and, over 35 years, started six institutions for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick. She died in 1917 and is the patron saint of immigrants.
3. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, SC, the first native-born U.S. citizen to be canonized, was left poor and widowed with five children. She converted to Catholicism and founded the first order of religious women in America, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. She was co-founder of the first free Catholic school in America and is considered the founder of the Catholic school system in the United States. She died in 1821.
4. St. John Neumann, CSsR, a Redemptorist priest, was the fourth bishop of Philadelphia from 1852 till his death in 1860. A native of Bohemia, he followed his vocation to New York City and, at the time of his ordination, was one of only 36 priests serving 200,000 Catholics. He founded the first diocesan Catholic school system in the United States, growing the number of schools in his diocese from two to 100.
5. St. Katharine Drexel, SBS, a wealthy, educated young woman from Philadelphia with a deep sympathy for the poor, gave up everything to become a missionary to the Indians and African Americans. She founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and started numerous schools and missions for Native and African Americans. She died at the age of 96 in 1955 and was canonized in 2000.
6. St. Mother Théodore Guérin, SP, founder of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, was asked to leave France and lead a small band of missionary sisters to Indiana. When the sisters arrived, there was only a log cabin with a porch that served as a chapel. By the time she died in 1856, she and her community had opened schools in Illinois and throughout Indiana. She was canonized in 2006.
7. St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, RSCJ, a missionary to Native Americans, traveled to the Louisiana Territory from France in 1818, where she and other members of the Society of the Sacred Heart carried out their missionary work. She opened the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi River, as well as the first Catholic school for Native Americans. She was known among the Pottowami Indians as the “Woman Who Prays Always.”
8. St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai, SSCC, missionary to the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii, was born in Belgium in 1840 to a poor farmer and his wife. At 19, he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. His older brother, also a priest in the congregation, had offered to minister to the lepers on the island of Molokai but fell ill and couldn’t go. Damien volunteered to take his place and offered to stay in the leper colony permanently, building schools, churches, hospitals and coffins. He contracted leprosy himself but continued to serve the mission until his death in 1889.
9. St. Marianne Cope, OSF, another missionary to the lepers of Molokai, joined the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in her teens and served in leadership roles including novice mistress of her congregation and superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. She became a leader in the field of health care, often caring for those considered outcasts, which led her to volunteer in Hawaii. In Hawaii she cared for women and girls suffering from leprosy, providing them with an education. She died in 1918.
10. St. Kateri Tekakwitha, also known as the Lily of the Mohawks, converted at the age of 19, heedless of the anger of her relatives. Because she refused to work on Sundays, she was denied meals that day in the Mohawk village. Finally, a missionary encouraged her to run away to Montreal, where she practiced her faith freely and lived a life of extreme prayer and penance, taking a vow of virginity. She died in 1680.