In the fall when the Diocese of Youngstown formally opened the sainthood cause for an Ohio woman known for her life of prayer and spiritual gifts, more than 1,000 people filled St Peter Church in Canton.
It was standing-room-only at the Mass to officially open the cause
for Canton’s Rhoda Wise, known for her healing gifts and the stigmata,
wounds that resemble those of Christ on the cross.
Though raised a Protestant, Wise (1888-1948) later embraced
Catholicism and was devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the rosary and
St Therese of Lisieux, known as the “Little Flower”.
People of all ages, most from Stark County, but many from
out-of-state, came to Wise’s home parish church for this first step in
her journey to possible official recognition as a saint.
Siffrin, diocesan vicar general and moderator of the curia, was the main
The number of people at Mass “shows how many people she touched while
she was alive or after (her death),” said Fr Edward Beneleit, pastor of
St Peter, told The Catholic Exponent, Youngstown’s diocesan newspaper.
“It shows the devotion to her. This is the crowd that is really
Among those who claimed miraculous healing from Wise was Mother
Angelica, founder of the Eternal Word Television Network, who said she
was cured of a painful stomach ailment after praying with Wise, who led
her in a novena to St Therese of Lisieux.
Our Lady of Angels Monastery in Alabama, which Mother Angelica also
founded, for years supported the Rhoda Wise Shrine, which was built in
the home of Wise and surrounding property in Canton.
With her cause officially opened, Youngstown Bishop George V Murry declared her a “servant of God” here.
A postulator has been named, and a local tribunal will open an
inquiry into her life. Tribunal members will examine any writings Wise
left, any historical records about her and any testimony from people who
knew her and make a recommendation to Bishop Murry.
The diocese in turn will make a recommendation to Congregation for
Saints’ Causes at the Vatican, which then reviews the gathered
If the congregation finds she led a heroic life of Christian virtues, the church bestows the title “Venerable.”
The next steps would be beatification and canonisation.
two miracles are needed for sainthood – one for beatification and the
second for canonisation.
Prayers for Wise’s cause will take place in the evening on the first
Thursday of each month with Mass, rosary and eucharistic adoration, said
Karen Sigler, director of the Rhoda Wise Shrine.
Capuchin Father Joseph Tuscan, a member of the board of the Rhoda
Wise Shrine, who attended the Mass in October, noted that Pope Francis
keeps saying “for the new evangelisation we have to go out to the
The house where she lived was (located in) a poor place, is
still a poor place and it’s very unintimidating.”
“People come there who are not religious, people who are Catholics,
fallen-away Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, people with no
religion, because they are fascinated by the story. Everyone who comes
there experiences a sense of peace,” Fr Tuscan said. “In a certain way,
everyone who comes in takes one step closer to God.”
The priest said Wise really suffered throughout her life, dealing
with financial disaster, the death of a young daughter, an alcoholic
husband, as well as her own serious health issues.
During one of her
hospitals stays, before she became a Catholic, a nun told her about the
rosary and St Therese.
Wise reportedly experienced her first apparition of Jesus May
28,1939, and about a month later had an apparition of Jesus with St
Wise was cured of her stomach cancer, which was considered incurable
by her doctors, who had sent her home to die. On August 15, 1939, St
Therese is said to have miraculously healed Wise of a broken foot.
“Everyone suffers, but in a way, Rhoda Wise, aside from being a
witness to the people on the fringes, is an answer to the question of
human suffering,” Father Tuscan added. “Rhoda wasn’t crushed by her
suffering. She became a source of hope. And I think that perseveres.”
According to Wise’s writings, there was a continuous stream of visitors – mostly strangers – at her house.
Though it might be a colossal disruption to most, those who knew her,
including some of her grandchildren who were present that night, said
that Wise welcomed everyone – those desperate to be healed or freed or
calmed – in her tiny, three-room house.
“It was a normal house. We had arguments, dinners at the table, bath
time, yard work, house work. It was our home,” said Tammy Schuette of
Salem, Wise’s granddaughter.
“To us, it was not unusual when people came
to the door at 10 o’clock.”