Isn’t it interesting that the two of the saints of New York and a third, who’s on the road to canonization, were women who persevered when authorities did not recognize the urgency and value of their missions? St. Elizabeth Seton had to move to Emmitsburg, Md., to found the school that led to the establishment of the Sisters of Charity. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was told to go home to Italy, but she won over Archbishop Michael Corrigan. And Dorothy Day was investigated by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI!
Last Sunday, Nov. 29, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan joined the Rev. Jarleth Quinn, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Tottenville, S.I.,* and the parish community for a Mass to mark the 30th anniversary of the passage of Dorothy Day into eternal life.
Also present was Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, chancellor of the archdiocese and postulator for the cause of Dorothy Day’s sainthood. Cardinal John O’Connor introduced her cause in 2000, shortly before he died. Msgr. Peter Finn, co-vicar of Staten Island, concelebrated with several other priests and deacons.
At the Mass, Archbishop Dolan used a chalice that has been in the possession of the parish since it opened in 1898. Afterward, he blessed and formally dedicated an addition to the parish school, which also provides new space for the parish catechetical program, much to the delight of longtime coordinator of religious education, Marie Dunigan. Here are some great photos of the celebration.
The choice of Our Lady Help of Christians to note the life and legacy of Dorothy Day was a natural, given her connections to the parish and Staten Island. She was baptized in 1927 in the original Our Lady Help of Christians Church. For many years, she lived in a cottage at Spanish Camp on Staten Island. Sadly, the cottage was demolished in 2001. When she died in 1980, she was laid to rest in Resurrection Cemetery on the island. Led by the energetic and witty Fr. Quinn, the parishioners work to help needy people in the name of their fellow Staten Islander.
Dorothy Day was a peace activist and a tireless advocate for poor and powerless people. She is best known, along with her associate Peter Maurin, for the Catholic Worker movement, which they co-founded in 1933. But she was also a suffragette and actually was arrested in front of the White House in 1917 for agitating for a woman’s right to vote.
She lived a long and eventful life. Interestingly, many of her friends are still alive and active. Some even attended Sunday’s Mass. They would probably recall how uncomfortable Dorothy became when people told her she was a saint. “Don’t call me a saint,” she would say. “I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.” Well, Dorothy, you will be recognized officially as a saint some day soon, please God, and nobody but nobody will ever dismiss you again.
Read more here about the Catholic Worker Movement.
* Tottenville is the southernmost town in the Archdiocese of New York. To drive from there to Tivoli, the northernmost town, you’ll need to spend two and a half to three hours (traffic permitting) on the road and you’ll pay a visit to New Jersey on the way. The distance is 139 miles. And this is the short route.