Hire, meeting 'jumpstart' Day's sainthood cause

by Mick Forgey

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The New York archdiocese has hired help to move forward Dorothy Day's cause for canonization and beatification. On Oct. 28, Jeff Korgen began serving as coordinator of the diocesan phase of the inquiry.

"She's a servant of God, which is at the very beginning stage. Her canonization efforts are underway," George Horton, director of the Department of Social and Community Development at Catholic Charities in the archdiocese, said in an Oct. 22 phone interview with NCR.

Horton said Korgen will coordinate the local or diocesan phase of the canonization project. He will coordinate interviews with witnesses, gather all of Day's writings, and fulfill the canonical requirements. "He will be responsible to the postulator of the cause but supervised by myself," Horton wrote in an email to NCR.

The postulator for Day's cause, Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, is vicar general and chancellor of the archdiocese. He was appointed by the late Cardinal John O'Connor, who initiated Day's canonization process in 2000.

Since 2005, the archdiocesan offices have housed the Dorothy Day Guild, "an organization in which people participate who are interested in Dorothy Day's cause," Horton said. "The Guild is designed to show those who will make the decisions on the cause that there is popular interest, that there are people who want this to happen."

Korgen will be working with the Dorothy Day Guild Advisory Board, along with Horton, for advice and assistance.

Korgen's position and hiring was discussed during an Oct. 20 meeting at the Catholic Center in New York City. Mustaciuolo and Horton attended the meeting, along with the guild advisory board -- consisting of people who knew Day or are involved in the Catholic Worker movement, including Martha Hennessy,* Day's granddaughter -- and others interested in the cause.

"We felt it was time that we brought the advisory board together again," Horton said. During the meeting, Mustaciuolo and Horton discussed the archdiocese's actions regarding the cause.

"One was to try to get this local phase organized," Horton said Oct. 22. "And we've made a commitment to hire a part-time person to begin working on the local phase. And that was one of the sources of frustration that had been out there -- that we hadn't done much on that. So the diocese is committed to at least get that started with a person."

The group in attendance also discussed the recent updates to the Dorothy Day Guild website, www.dorothydayguild.org.

Horton said that attendees talked about funding and tasks in which advisory board members could participate, such as identifying people who knew Day and need to be interviewed for the diocesan phase of her cause. The attendees also talked about opportunities and challenges going forward.

Horton said that Mustaciuolo also committed to appointing a canon lawyer. "Every step of this process needs to be overseen by a canon lawyer. As you can imagine, you can make mistakes pretty easily. So I think that gave a lot of comfort to the advisory board, that we were moving ahead with those processes," he said.

"I think that the postulator really wanted to consult us about various issues and to signal a kind of new seriousness," said Robert Ellsberg, a member of the guild advisory board and publisher of Orbis Books.

Ellsberg, who was part of the Catholic Worker community during the last five years of Day's life, has published many books by and about her. "The introduction of Jeff Korgen and kind of an outlining of an agenda of items for the future was, in a way, the re-launching of the process," he said.

Ellsberg told NCR Oct. 21, "This is exactly the kind of thing that had been stalled because there really wasn't anybody available to do it, and the postulator, Msgr. Greg, although I think [he is] quite devoted to this, he's also the busiest man in the archdiocese. He's both the chancellor and the vicar general, responsible for everything that's going on in the archdiocese after the cardinal. I could hardly have imagined that he could take on hands-on, personal responsibility for these tasks."

Regarding Korgen, with whom he has published two books, Ellsberg said, "I couldn't think of a more qualified person to do this."

"We have the okay of the bishops' conference, we have a guild established, but the canonical steps for the local phase are not very far along," Horton said. "And that's the commitment we've made now, to get those going. Now, when I say that, I don't want to say that there's nothing been done. We have Robert Ellsberg's collection of her letters and journals, we have Marquette University's collection of her writings, [and] again, we have a guild. One of the problems here is that there are a lot of pieces floating out there, and that's one of the reasons that we need someone who can organize this. ... In terms of that organized process, we needed a jumpstart and I think we got it."

[Mick Forgey is an NCR Bertelsen intern. His email address is mforgey@ncronline.org.]

*An earlier version of this story misspelled Hennessy's name.

A version of this story appeared in the Dec 5-18, 2014 print issue under the headline: Hire, meeting 'jumpstart' Day's sainthood cause.

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