Archbishop Opens Sainthood Cause for Local Priest

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Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput on Monday took the first step in the official process of beatification and canonization of a lifelong Delaware County resident: Augustinian Father William Atkinson.

Father Atkinson was the Catholic Church’s first quadraplegic priest. According to Catholicphilly.com, the Msgr. Bonner High grad he was almost completely paralyzed from the neck down after he had a near-fatal tobogganing accident while he was training for the priesthood. After his ordination, he served for 30 years as a theology teacher and assistant chaplain at his alma mater, Msgr. Bonner H.S. in Drexel Hill.

Archbishop Chaput celebrated the formal rite at St. Thomas of Villanova Chapel, with the Augustian community of Villanova in attendance.

According to Catholicphilly.com, “declaring a person a saint typically is a lengthy process in the church. After the local ordinary, the bishop, approves the cause for canonization, the matter is submitted for approval to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and eventually to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.”

The Vatican granted its approval for the cause to be opened in 2016. After Monday’s Mass, Archbishop Chaput appointed Father Joseph Ryan, assistant professor of history at Villanova; Dr. Patrick Hayes, archivist for the Baltimore Province of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer; and Dr. Nicholas Rademacher, associate professor of religious studies at Cabrini University as the tribunal responsible for investigating Father Atkinson’s life.

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