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Asking the Clergy: Who is the most overlooked saint?

From left, the Rev. Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco

From left, the Rev. Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco of St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, the Rev. Randolph Jon Geminder of St. Mary's Anglican Church and the Right Rev. Archimandrite Maximos Weimar of the Monastery of St. Dionysios the Areopagite. Credit: Catholic News Service / Paul Haring; Randolph Geminder; Monastery of Saint Dionysios

All Saints' Day is observed every year on Nov. 1 by Roman Catholics and other Christians, and eight weeks after Easter by Eastern Orthodox Christians. In contrast to Halloween, it a solemn holy day, dedicated to recognized saints, as well as to all souls who have attained heaven, according to catholic org. This week’s clergy discuss little-known saints who deserve to be lifted up into the light.

The Right Rev. Archimandrite Maximos Weimar

Abbot, Monastery of St. Dionysios the Areopagite, Saint James

Over the many centuries of the life of the church, many holy people died in complete obscurity. Many years ago I was visiting the Egyptian desert. The monks showed me a spot where during their archaeological excavations they’d found the remnants of a fourth- or fifth-century city built to handle the massive influx of converts to the Christian Church. It was where thousands, maybe tens of thousands, were baptized into the church. After the Roman Army came to the city and killed every man, woman and child there, it became known as "Martyropolis," the City of Martyrs. Fourteen centuries of sand had covered the city until the late 1990s.

As a young monk I was told this story by an old Coptic monk who then took me to a tiny chapel in the huge monastery. From the back of the church he brought a box covered over with purple velvet and plastic. Inside was the body of a baby killed by the Roman Army for being a Christian so many centuries ago. The image of that tiny martyr will stay in my mind for as long as I live. Surely, he or she must be the among the most overlooked saints.

The Rev. Randolph Jon Geminder

Rector, St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Amityville

The most overlooked saint is certainly a matter of opinion. There are innumerable saints included in the calendars of both the Eastern and Western churches, and still more who have been either suppressed or moved to a lesser status to enable more holy people to be venerated.

One noble individual was Jozef De Veuster, known more commonly as St. Damien the Leper. He was born in rural Belgium in 1840. After a quiet ministry for some nine years on the island of Hawaii, he requested a transfer to the leper colony on Molokai. The place was a living hell — chaotic, unsanitary and forgotten by the world. St. Damien brought order, loving care and dignity to the residents.

Like the Lord whom he adored, Damien identified utterly with the people he served, though he knew it would cost him his life. His assignment was to be temporary, yet he requested that it be his permanent apostolate. After contracting the disease, he labored diligently for nearly five more years, until his death. In his agony, his constant prayer was, "It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation."

The Rev. Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco

Pastor, St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, West Hempstead

Overlooked saint may be a contradiction in terms. For Catholics, saints are meant to be examples for us all. Time may render some obscure or better known in one region than in others.

One saint who should not be overlooked anywhere is St. Josephine Bakhita, who died in 1947, was canonized in 2000 and named the patron of human trafficking victims. Born circa 1869 in Sudan, she was kidnapped by slave-traders as a child and sold and resold. Sometimes she was treated well but mostly abominably. An Italian official in Sudan, and then, through him, an Italian family, took possession of her. In Italy she encountered the Canossian sisters religious community, who introduced her to Christianity. She did not want to go back to Sudan permanently when the Italian family decided to return there. A court case declared her free. One can only imagine how much Jesus’ words, "I no longer call you slaves … I have called you friends" (John 15:15) meant to her personally. She became a Christian and a Canossian sister.

Cynics might say her menial tasks around the convent couldn’t have been too different from her previous life, except she now served the only one who is truly the Master.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.

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