LORETTO - The work on the Cause for the Canonization of Father Demetrius Gallitzin, servant of God, has taken six years. Yet, in some ways it has only begun.
The research and documentation on Gallitzin's life has been completed by the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, and a Mass was celebrated Wednesday by Bishop Mark L. Bartchak at the Basilica of St. Michael to mark that the diocese work was finished.
Today, more than 6,000 pages about the Russian prince who left his homeland to serve God in the American wilderness in the 1800s is in Rome, where it will take many more years to determine if Gallitzin will be named a saint by the pope. Gallitzin gave up his family and wealth as a member of Russian royalty when he converted to Roman Catholicism as a teen. He traveled to the United States and was ordained a priest.
He founded Loretto and built up the church in western Pennsylvania until his death.
Father Luis Escalante, a Vatican priest, was at the Prince Gallitzin Chapel House, working with Frank and Betty Seymour to prepare and authenticate the documents.
The Seymours of Loretto were members of a task force that originally looked into Gallitzin's life in 2004 after Bishop-Emeritus Joseph V. Adamec initiated the original proposal that Gallitzin be considered for sainthood.
He asked the Seymours to continue the investigation into the life of Gallitzin during the diocesan inquiry, which began in 2007.
Documents authenticating Gallitzin's life were sealed and flown to the Vatican under Escalante's care. The work will be presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.
The postulator for the Gallitzin cause in Rome, Escalante will review all the work and compile it into a book, a responsibility that is expected to take at least two years.
His compilation will be presented to the Congregation to determine its historic value and proof that Gallitzin lived a virtuous life.
"The Catholic Church takes this work very seriously," Escalante said, who noted that Gallitzin's cause is an historic one.
"They take a scientific approach to public matters," Escalante said, "They have to vote on the preparedness of the material."
At that point, if Gallitzin's life is approved, he becomes Venerable. A miracle must be attributed to his intercession before he is beatified or give the title of Blessed.
Escalante said the miracle does not have to be a healing but any impossible situation that is corrected without explanation, such as an accident in which someone should have died.
Once the candidate passes those tests, a second miracle must be attributed to him. Then, the cardinals discuss the candidate's qualifications, and if they give their affirmation, the candidate is presented to the pope for his approval.
"It's a long process and a serious process," Escalante said.
He said the United States has fewer saints than other countries with the first American saint being canonized in 1975. In that year, Elizabeth Seton, who started the first Catholic school in the nation, was named a saint.
Escalante emphasized that because a candidate is going through the process, it does not necessarily mean he or she will become a saint.
"Many causes have been stopped," he said. Candidates may only become Blessed and many just have been venerated in their area, he said.
But a saint is venerated all over the world, Escalante said.