Frederic Baraga – the “Snowshoe” Priest
Frederic Baraga (1797 – 1868) left Europe to set up missions for the native peoples in the Great Lakes region. His nickname came from the fact that he wore snowshoes to travel between the churches he served – sometimes traveling more than 700 miles in one winter. He became the first bishop of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Baraga learned to speak many Native American languages fluently, and he developed a written form of some of them. He wrote, for example, the first known grammar of the Chippewa language as well as many prayers in other Native American Languages.
Fr. Patrick Peyton – Champion of the Rosary
Father Patrick Peyton (1909 – 1992) is best known for his devotion to prayer, especially the Rosary. Though Irish-born, Peyton attended seminary in the United States. While in the seminary, he contracted tuberculosis, which at the time was thought to be incurable. He prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary to restore his health, and soon he recovered completely. In gratitude to Mary, after he was ordained in 1941, Father Peyton started the Prayer Crusade. He traveled far and wide preaching the importance of prayer, especially family prayer. “The family that prays together, stays together” became his famous motto. Fr. Peyton founded Family Rosary and Family Theatre, using radio, film, and television to teach families all over the world the value of praying the Rosary.
John Neumann – Pastor, Administrator, and Promoter of Devotions
John Neumann (1811 – 1860) left Europe to serve the needs of immigrants to the United States. Many Catholic immigrants were leaving the faith, and Fr. Neumann dedicated his life to helping them keep their faith. He was first appointed pastor of a large wilderness area of upstate New York. There he built churches and schools. Eventually Fr. Neumann was appointed Bishop of Philadelphia. There he helped to organize one of the first systems of Catholic schools in the United States. Bishop Neumann saw devotions as an important way to help Catholics to grow in a relationship with God. He especially promoted continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament called Forty Hours Devotion. Bishop Neumann was canonized in 1977 as the first American male saint. His feast day is January 5.
Father Joseph T. O’Callahan, SJ – A Valiant Chaplain
Father O’Callahan (1905 – 1964) served as a chaplain to the sailors on the USS Franklin during World War II. He won a Medal of Honor for his actions when the ship was attacked. Not only did he minister to the dying and wounded, he organized and led the firefighting crews onto the blazing deck. Going into the ship several times he personally led over 700 crewmen to safety. He was singled out for “serving with courage, fortitude and deep spiritual strength” helping the sailors return their stricken ship to port. O’Callahan, a Jesuit priest, had been a professor of mathematics, philosophy, and physics before he served as chaplain.