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UPDATE: Chattanooga church celebrates former priest on the road to sainthood

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Local church members gathered to celebrate the church's former priest. Saints Peter and Paul Basilica held a Thanksgiving Mass for Servant of God Patrick Ryan. The 19th century church leader is in the first part of a four step process to sainthood.

Father Ryan died a martyr's death in 1878 during the Yellow Fever epidemic. He was only 33. He knew the risks but chose to stay and help the people of Chattanooga.

Church members were given prayers cards of Father Patrick Ryan, so they can pray to him asking for a miracle. Some members say they believe it is already working.

Mary Cooper prays every day, for many different reasons but lately she has been praying for a special purpose. “I am here to pray today to see if this should happen. It is going to be exciting to see this come about for our church,” said Mary Cooper.

She's been attending church, asking for a miracle. “Wouldn't it be better to pray to somebody there already instead of a person on the street to pray.”

A family friend was diagnosed with a life threatening illness. He was scheduled for emergency surgery. “I left church at 1:00, got a message from his wife, said he was much better and didn't have to do that at all.”

She thanks the unbelievable recovery to Father Patrick Ryan. Ryan is a local priest from the 1800's who is on the path to sainthood. “It’s amazing. What can you contribute you that to?”

The church has been handing out prayer cards to worshipers praying for an intercession. “Immerse themselves back into the scriptures and relationship with God is an awesome thing to be a part of and really see,” said Father Colin Baltchford.

If there are two documented cases of miracles in Ryan’s name, his cause for sainthood will go to the pope. “Monumental. Chattanooga has a deep history and now we are approaching sainthood. It is an amazing thing,” said church member Jason McCulley.

It's too early to say if the Vatican will consider Mary Cooper's case a miracle, but in her eyes, it is. “This was so positive, there is not really a whole lot of explanation for that,” said Mary Cooper.

If Father Patrick Ryan becomes a saint, his saint day would be celebrated each year on September 28th.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.


PREVIOUS STORY: Chattanooga may become home to the first ever saint for the state of Tennessee. Staff at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul are working with Vatican officials to canonize Father Patrick Ryan. Father Ryan worked with the sick and dying in the 1870s in Chattanooga. 

Father Ryan is in the first stage, of a four step process to become a saint. Now it is up to local church officials to prove to the Vatican "Servant of God Patrick Ryan" was a holy man.

Father Patrick Ryan died a martyr's death in 1878 during the Yellow Fever epidemic. He knew the risk but chose to stay and help the people of Chattanooga. He was only 33 years old. “In his normal work, he did a good job. He didn't leave town when he could've. When others were leaving, he died in service to his people,” said Deacon Gaspar DeGaetano.    

One hundred 38 years later, church officials are working to make Father Ryan a saint. In a 4 step process, Ryan has already passed the first test. He is considered a Servant of God. “He was a hero not just to the Catholics but everybody. He was a hero to the community.”

The Diocese of Knoxville initiated a Cause for Sainthood for Ryan. It is an extensive process to prove he was a man of God. “Try to dig up and go through the steps to see what you can find. See where he was educated, where he was born, name of his parents.”

The church is handing out hundreds of prayer cards to worshipers praying for Father Ryan’s intercession, praying for a miracle. “It is not a matter of all emotion, matter of looking for God's grace and getting people excited about this opportunity to pray for divine intercession.”

If there are two documented cases of proof of miracles in his name, his Cause for Sainthood will go to The Pope.  Parishioners are optimistic. “The way Servant of God happened so quickly and other things just been lining up.”

It could be years or decades before Ryan ever becomes a saint. But the people of this parish are hoping and praying the world gets to know  the young man whose virtues are still inspiring people today. “That is the beauty of this cause. It is an opportunity for grace, opportunity to remember God's mercy and God's love. Great example here in Chattanooga, that someday we might have a Saint Patrick of Chattanooga.”

Father Patrick Ryan is currently buried at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in East Ridge. Later this year, his body will be exhumed and his tomb will be at the alter at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

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