This is the third column in an original four-part series on the cause of canonization of Father John A. Hardon.
So far in this series of articles, we have looked at the long life and lasting legacy of Father John A. Hardon S.J. In addition, we unpacked the basic ins and outs of a cause for sainthood. For this article, I would like to take some time to look at the journey so far in the cause of beatification and canonization of the Servant of God, Father John A. Hardon S.J., and where things stand now.
It didn't take long after I first took over at the helm in 2007 as the Executive Director of the Father John A. Hardon S.J., Archive and Guild, before I realized the scope of the work ahead. The offices of the Archive and Guild are temporarily assigned to the former convent of the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis. (Eventually, the office will be relocated to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin.) In the late spring of 2007, a few months before I moved to St. Louis, then-Archbishop Raymond L. Burke had all of Father Hardon's personal effects and manuscripts shipped from Assumption Grotto Parish in Detroit, Michigan to St. Louis. (Father Hardon died in Clarkston at Colombiere, which is a Jesuit residence just north of Detroit. This is also where Father Hardon is buried.) Monsignor C. Eugene Morris, the Episcopal Delegate of the cause, and a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, drove a U-Haul to the Motor City and filled it to the brim with hundreds of boxes of Fr. Hardon's files. After a long drive in a weighted down truck, Monsignor Morris arrived in St. Louis and unloaded the precious cargo in the living room of the former convent. A few months later, I arrived in St. Louis, having little idea of what was waiting for me in the newly minted Archive and Guild. The living room, which was eventually to become the Father Hardon Room, and the dining room, which was slated to become our meeting room, were filled with boxes that were stacked up to my shoulders. I knew that Father Hardon was a serious thinker and writer, but I had no idea that such a vast quantity of files would be there!
Over the course of the next year or so, I set about to bring some order to the files. With the invaluable help of a good friend who is now in the seminary in Boston, I transferred all of Father Hardon's personal library, thousands of books, downstairs and organized them on newly installed, high-quality shelves. Understandably, then-Archbishop Burke preferred that the books be on shelves, rather than in boxes. It will come as no surprise to readers that it was during this period that I experienced a newfound respect and appreciation for librarians!
The Postulator to the cause, Father Robert T. McDermott, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, arrived in the summer of 2008. He brought with him valuable personal knowledge of Father Hardon, having received his master's degree in theology under Father Hardon's direct supervision. Father McDermott also possesses exceptional knowledge of recent Church history in the United States, as well as the pivotal role that Father Hardon played in key events over the course of many decades. These insights helped me to better understand the context in which Father Hardon operated.
Needless to say, I was happy that Father McDermott arrived to lend some much-needed guidance and encouragement. Taking stock of the situation, we decided that the office space needed some extensive work if it was going to serve as a suitable setting for the important work ahead. We refer to this as the "setting up shop" phase. Over the course of several months, we rolled up our sleeves, painted several rooms and hallways, had new lighting and flooring installed, acquired new furniture and several elegant display cases for Father Hardon's personal effects. I must mention here the help of a small army of seminarians from Kenrick-Glennon Seminary who volunteered their time on a Saturday morning to lend a hand with the extensive painting. When all was said and done, Father McDermott and I were very pleased with the appearance of the refitted office, and many visitors to the Archive and Guild have voiced their approval.
One of the highlights in the early history of the Archive and Guild was the rite of blessing of the office on September 21, 2009. By then, Archbishop Burke was no longer the Archbishop of St. Louis, but the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican, a position he holds to this day. Then-Archbishop Burke paid a four-day visit to his beloved Archdiocese of St. Louis and officiated at the blessing of the office. During the course of the event, he offered a brief reflection on the life of Father Hardon. What stood out from that reflection was the observation that Father Hardon, this master catechist, was a preacher and defender of the truth "in and out of season", when it was popular and not popular to do so. Along with all of the officers of the Archive and Guild, about one hundred faithful were on hand for the blessing and reception on that special day. A little over one year later, Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke was elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.
Spreading knowledge about the life of Father John A. Hardon S.J. (by means of mailings of short biographies and prayer cards, writing and giving interviews for various news articles, making phone calls, and appearances at Catholic Conferences) occupies a large amount of the Archive and Guild's time. Father McDermott has given numerous presentations to groups of Catholics interested in Father Hardon and in the process involved in a cause for beatification and canonization. In addition to this, Stan Drew, a professional in the field of document scanning is working hard to preserve thousands of Father Hardon's precious manuscripts and hand-written papers. Don Fier, a friend of the Archive and Guild with a keen interest in making Father Hardon's life more widely known, is working closely with Father McDermott on writing an extensive biography of Father Hardon. Mr. Fier is kept busy travelling to different locals across the country, conducting in-depth interviews with acquaintances of Father Hardon. He recently met for a couple of hours with Cardinal Burke to discuss this important project.
Looking ahead in the work of the Archive and Guild, a major step will be the recording of depositions from people who knew Father Hardon. Not surprisingly, he touched scores of souls over the course of his many years of active ministry and teaching, and so it is understandable that these individuals are most eager to share their story. Raising funds to keep the work going is also a major concern. The many different fronts of the work of the Archive and Guild require a significant amount of funding. So, I'll finish here with a favorite quote of Father Hardon, "There's work to be done!"
James Maldonado Berry served almost four years as the Executive Director for the cause of canonization of Fr. John A. Hardon. James is a native of Milwaukee, WI. He completed his undergraduate studies at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia and holds a Licentiate in Social Communication from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.