Servant of God, Dorothy Day: The Opening of a New Canonical Inquiry

This post was written by Father Michael P. Morris, Director, Archives of the Archdiocese of New York.

On Tuesday, April 19, 2016, Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, Archbishop of New York, announced the opening of the canonical inquiry into the life of Dorothy Day (1897–1980), co-founder with Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement.  The cause of Dorothy Day was introduced by the late John Cardinal O’Connor and in 2000 Dorothy Day was given the title Servant of God, the first step toward possible beatification and canonization.  The canonical inquiry will entail interviews with fifty people who personally knew Dorothy Day, in an effort to gather evidence to attest to the veracity of Dorothy Day’s life of heroic virtue as determined by the Church.  The results of the inquiry will be forwarded to the Congregation of Saints in Rome, and it will become the responsibility of Pope Francis to render a decision based upon the findings of the investigation.  Further steps in the process of canonization, if successful, will include the declaration of Dorothy Day as Venerable, and if so deemed, beatification, with the title Blessed, and finally, canonization, with the honor Saint.  The process of canonization is comprehensive and quite lengthy.  Please God, some day we may count Dorothy Day as one of the many canonized saints who were associated with New York.

When she was not traveling to the various Catholic Worker houses throughout the United States, Dorothy Day labored primarily in the Catholic Worker settlements in Lower Manhattan.  She frequently sought peace and quiet at the Catholic Worker farm in Easton, Pennsylvania, on the banks of the Delaware River as well as a small settlement in Tivoli, Dutchess County, New York.  But perhaps the most favored of her retreats was at Spanish Camp, on the shores of Raritan Bay, Staten Island.  It was there, in 1927, at neighboring Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Tottenville, that Dorothy Day was conditionally baptized and received into the Catholic Church.  In 1999, despite efforts to preserve the historic site, Spanish Camp was razed for development of new homes.  Salvaged from the remains of Day’s retreat was a gnarled off-white colored dresser marked “D. Day” and her Royal typewriter, now in the collection of the Archives of the Archdiocese of New York.  The typewriter, now displayed in the John Cardinal O’Connor Memorial Library, is certainly one of the great treasures of the Archives.  Visitors and researchers will approach the typewriter with a hushed, prayerful silence.  It is a powerful witness to the magnificent works of its owner.

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