By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Erin von Uffel and Lorraine Fusaro are certain. So is Dr. Andrea Ambrosi and Bishop Robert W. Finn.
There is no doubt in their mind that Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey is a saint worthy of canonization or they wouldn’t have gone through years of work on her cause.
Bill Quatman is also certain. As are his fellow tribunal members Father Matthew Bartulica, Father Joseph Totton, and Patricia Montes. As are members of the Historical Commission that also put in more than three years of work on the cause: Dr. Claude Sasso, Msgr. William Caldwell, and Dr. Timothy Brennan. As are members of the Theological Commission: Scott McKellar and Dr. Matthew J. Ramage.
Certain as well are members of Sister Marie’s family who came from France Sept. 13 to witness the solemn Closing of the Diocesan Phase of the Cause for the Beatification/Canonization of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey at Kansas City’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The family in attendance, whose ancestral branches include popes and canonized saints, included Barons Jacques and Phillipe de Mandat-Grancey, Baroness Rosario de Mandat-Grancey, and Sister Elizabeth de Mandat-Grancey.
Equally certain and also in attendance was Archbishop Emeritus Guiseppe Bernardi of Smyrna, Turkey. It was his personal request that Bishop Finn accepted for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to complete the painstaking diocesan phase for his archdiocese which is poor in resources only.
All these people worked hard, for a reason, von Uffel said.
“We need her to be a (canonized) saint,” said von Uffel, co-founder and president of the Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey Foundation, which has been dedicated to her cause for more than a decade.
“Sister Marie brings out that bridge between Muslims and Christians — to love Mary and to pray for her intervention and protection. We must know how to love and to be at peace with each other. Mary is gathering her children to her house because everyone is a child of Mary,” von Uffel said.
She witnessed that herself on her first visit to the ancient house in a small village in Turkey, once called Ephesus.
It was there, Tradition teaches, that the Apostle John, to whom the crucified Jesus had entrusted his mother, had taken Mary to live her remaining years on earth.
It was to the remains of that house that Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey, following a vision of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, financed an expedition in 1891 to discover not only the house but even something more remarkable. The Muslim community had already made it a shrine – to Mary.
Two world wars and much disrepair later, Quatman’s grandfather George restored Mary’s final earthly home in gratitude for miraculously sparing the life of his grandson David from polio.
Bill Quatman had just returned from Turkey. He showed a copy of a news story, written in Turkish, of an agreement Quatman is pictured receiving from District Gov. Ayan Boyaci and Mayor Zeynil Bakici to restore Christian sites from the ancient city which can trace its roots to both St. John the Evangelist and St. Paul, as well as to Mary.
In addition, Quatman said, Mayor Bakici announced his intention to build a 350-foot tall statue of Mary on the mountain where Catholic Tradition teaches that Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven.
“He feels Mary will bring Christians and Muslims together,” Quatman said. “In Islam, they have a devotion to Mary. They put Jesus in their family of prophets.”
Ambrosi, the Italian attorney who has served as postulator for “hundreds” of causes for sainthood including Blessed Charles of Austria and Blessed John Cardinal Newman, said each cause that he has helped investigate, document, and prepare for review by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints is special.
“One thing that is notable about this cause, it involves a very courageous woman who could have lived a privileged life but she went instead to serve the poor as a missionary in an area where her life was in danger,” he said, translated by Nina Bartulica.
“Obviously, I am impressed and inspired by her work,” Ambrosi said. “I am honored to work on behalf of this cause.”
Von Uffel said her husband had been transferred to London where a woman in her prayer group, Ana Banon, told her of her friend, Baroness Rosario, and of Sister Marie and the house in Ephesus.
“I got to meet the Baroness and travelled to Ephesus with her,” von Uffel said. “I noticed people of all religions praying at Mary’s house. You could feel the presence of the Blessed Virgin.”
Von Uffel asked the Baroness, “Why isn’t she a saint?”
“It’s such a sad story,” Baroness Rosario told her.
The family had pressed for the cause, but the two world wars interrupted. The Vincentians, Sister Marie’s religious order, do not promote the causes of their own members, believing that if such causes are worthy, the promotion will come from outside the order. And the Archdiocese of Smyrna is tiny, and lacking in the resources to undertake a sainthood cause.
Von Uffel replied, “If she is supposed to be a saint, we need her to be a saint.” She and Fusaro then established the foundation and slowly began pulling the cause together.
And she prayed. Almost by providence, she says in hindsight, her prayers then were to St. Joseph.
On a plane to one more pilgrimage to Turkey, von Uffel met Bishop Robert W. Finn, from Kansas City-St. Joseph, who was leading a pilgrimage to the same holy site.
Von Uffel served as the bridge to facilitate the official request from Archbishop Bernardi to Bishop Finn.
But Bishop Finn wanted to do what he always does before major decisions such as this.
“He told us he was going on retreat to pray and he would give us his answer in a week. I asked him if he could call us during the week. He said, ‘I’ll call you in a week,’” von Uffel said.
Bishop Finn said he opened his prayer book on the first day of the retreat and realized that it was the Feast of St. Polycarp of Smyrna.
“I took that as a sign,” the bishop said.
In his homily at the Mass to close the diocesan phase, Bishop Finn noted that the day, Sept. 13, was 177th anniversary of the birth of Sister Marie, who “began her earthly journey with a heavenly goal.”
“Sensing her given call, 13-year-old Marie wrote in prayer, ‘Grant me, I implore my God, a vocation to religious life. Give me the grace, O my God, to completely detach myself from the things here below and to aspire only to heaven.”
“What a joy and powerful reminder of God’s grace it has been to study the life of this holy woman,” Bishop Finn said.
“When we are around so many instances of sin and faithlessness, the church wishes to lift up for us heroic models of virtue, obedient participants in God’s providence, heavenly friends and intercessors,” he said.
“This is Sister Marie. A woman of heroic virtue. An instrument of providence. A patroness for peace between Christians and Muslims,” he said.
Bishop Finn said that when Pope Leo XIII called for missionaries to Turkey, she answered.
“There, she selflessly served orphans and the sick. She became superior and guided and shaped aspiring members of her community in prayer and charity,” Bishop Finn said.
After reading the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, Sister Marie not only had Mary’s house located, but arranged to buy it and to establish proper devotion at the discovered Shrine of Meryem Ana Evi, turning it into a place of prayer for both Christians and Muslims.
“Today, a million visitors come to pray at Mary’s house each year, many of them Muslims who, though they do not know Mary as Mother of God, still regard her, in accord with the Qur’an, with deep respect,” Bishop Finn said.
“They come and place their petitions at Meryem Ana Evi, asking Mary for the blessing of children,” he said.
“As Sister Marie was God’s instrument for establishing this place of peaceful prayer for diverse believers, I pray that someday soon she may be recognized within the church as a patron of peace for us, who so desperately need to know the Prince of Peace,” he said.
“At Mary’s house, it is already happening. Mary is calling and gathering her sons and daughters, Christians and Muslims alike,” Bishop Finn said.
How soon? It could be a few years. It could be many years. And it might not happen within the lifetime of any person gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City on Sept. 13, 2014 to see the documentation signed, packed and sealed in boxes for shipment to the Vatican.
“I understand they have 2,000 causes waiting.” Quatman said. “We don’t know if we go in the bottom of the stack, the middle of the stack, or the top. If the Vatican thinks that the connection between Christianity and Islam is timely, it might be expedited. But I’m 56. If it’s within the next 30 years, I might be around to see it.”
Von Uffel said she doesn’t care when. But she knows it is not just up to the Vatican.
“I am letting go and letting God,” she said. “Everything happens in his perfect time. That’s why we are here in Sister Marie’s prayer – God’s will be done.”
Quatman also knows God is in charge. Mary’s house was discovered in 1891. That same year, the orphaned George Quatman was adopted by a Catholic priest.
“I was thinking during Mass that this was the culmination of events that God put in place in 1891,” he said.
“God knows what he is doing.”