Lay Saints ‘In the Pipeline’ – Part IX

A look at Lay Blesseds, Venerables, and Servants of God



Let us take a look at the laypersons who are in the pipeline to be canonized. I have not researched all of the hundreds of Blesseds, Venerables, and Servants of God. In 2006, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, who headed the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said there were more than 2,200 causes pending. More information on young saints was provided at the October 2018 Synod of Bishops on Young People by Cardinal Giovanni Becciu, then-head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Becciu said that in the 430 years since his office was established, in 1588, “about 160 young people – under the age of 30—have been canonized and another 733 have been beatified or declared “blessed” (Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, “Album of Saints Has Room for More Young People, Says Cardinal,” Arlington Catholic Herald, Oct. 22, 2018). Further, “In the cases of another 54 young people, the church formally has recognized that they lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way,” that is, they were declared Venerable. Becciu told of “at least another 150 young people whose holiness is being studied. That number, he said, does not include young men and women under 30 who may be part of large groups of martyrs.” Becciu asked his fellow bishops:

“Is that a lot? Is that too few? The essential question, I would say, is not the number, but the message that these young people are able to transmit to their peers and the ability of the church—beginning with its pastors—to make their witness eloquent and fascinating.”

Cardinal Becciu asked all the bishops who lead dioceses to “help us make the young people in heaven more visible.” And, “Don’t reserve the fast track to the altars to founders and foundresses but expand the list of young people on the waiting list.”

Looking at the larger group of lay Blesseds, Venerables, and Servants of God, whatever their age, and only at those who were not martyred, we have the following:

  • Servant of God Dorothy Day (1897-1980), convert, author, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, mother of a daughter.
  • Servant of God Catherine Doherty (1896-1985), founder of Madonna House Apostolate, author, married and had a son.
  • Blessed Giuseppe Toniolo (1845-1918), economist and sociologist, married, with seven children.
  • Servant of God Jérôme Lejeune (1926-1994), pediatrician and geneticist, married and father of five.
  • Servant of God Giancarlo Rastelli (1933-1970), physician, married with one daughter.
  • The couple Servants of God Jeronimo de Castro Abreu Magalhaes and Zelia Pedreira Abreu Magalhaes, married in 1876 in Rio de Janeiro. They had 13 children. Six of the nine who survived to adulthood entered religious life. She was a lawyer; he was a civil engineer. (see Maria Emilia Marega, “A Different Falling in Love Leads to Holiness,”; May 3, 2012.)
  • The first married couple to be beatified, in 2001: Luigi (1880-1951) and Maria Beltrame (1884-1965) Quattrocchi. He was a lawyer; she was a writer. In their forties, after 21 years of marriage, at the direction of their spiritual adviser, they lived the remaining portion of their 46 years of marriage as “brother and sister.” Three of their four children entered religious life. (see Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, “Models of Holiness and Married Life: Couple’s Beatification Spotlights Marital Sanctity – Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi,” National Catholic Reporter, Dec. 28, 2001; Pope St. John Paul II, Homily at Beatification, Oct. 21, 2001,
  • Servant of God Francis C. Houle (1925-2009), married, five children. Said to have received the stigmata in 1993.

The next blog post will conclude this section on laypersons “in the pipeline” with Blessed Frédéric Ozanam (1813-1853), a lawyer who founded the lay St. Vincent de Paul Society.


***Editor’s Note: For Part X in this series, click here


James M. Thunder has left the practice of law but continues to write. He has published widely, including a Narthex series on lay holiness. He and his wife Ann are currently writing on the relationship between Father Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope) and lay people.

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