The following press release was issued by Communications Director John Fee from the Catholic Diocese of Marquette:
Bishop John Doerfler’s statement on support of Houle sainthood cause
It is an occasion of great joy in the Diocese of Marquette to receive the (unanimous) support of the U.S. bishops in the canonical consultation on the cause for canonization of Irving C. “Francis” Houle.
This is an early step in the cause for sainthood of a man who is an example of holiness for the ordinary guy.
Houle’s wife described him to me as “a wonderful husband and father.” He was “the guy next door” and a holy man in the words of his pastor.
An athlete, veteran, husband and father, 4th degree Knight of Columbus, and diligent worker in retail and manufacturing, Houle illustrates living a life of faith and holiness from family to the workplace.
In addition, Houle’s humility and self-sacrifice for his family, and the healing of others through his ministry of prayer are noteworthy. The extraordinary gifts of healing and the stigmata are further illustrations of how God chooses the lowly and humble as his instruments.
Houle sainthood cause moves forward
The Irving Houle cause for sainthood, which was officially opened by Bishop John Doerfler on Nov. 7, 2018, now has the unanimous support of the U.S. bishops. Bishop Doerfler described it as “an occasion of great joy in the Diocese of Marquette.”
Speaking at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops June 12 meeting in Baltimore, Bishop Doerfler said, “When I first spoke to Irving’s wife and asked about her husband, her initial words to me were, ‘He was a wonderful husband and father.’ His pastor described him as ‘the guy next door’ and a holy man.”
Houle’s quiet life of family, work, and deep prayer – he prayed the Stations of the Cross daily at 3 p.m. – took an unexpected turn in 1993 at Easter. He received the stigmata, the marks of Christ’s crucifixion. It took some time, and discernment with doctors, priests and other clergy, to come to an understanding of what was happening.
Eventually Houle began a public healing ministry, while never accepting payment. He said he had been given a dual mission to suffer the Passion every night and to help bring people back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
“Irving can serve as an example of holiness for the ordinary guy. Do we not need such illustrations of how one can live a life of holiness in ordinary life? Do we not need such examples of faith lived out in all aspects of one’s life from family to the workplace?” Bishop Doerfler told the bishops.
“In addition, Houle’s humility and self-sacrifice for his family, and the healing of others through his ministry of prayer are noteworthy. The extraordinary gifts of healing and the stigmata are further illustrations of how God chooses the lowly and humble as his instruments.”
Houle died Jan. 3, 2009. Under Church rules, the canonization process cannot begin until at least five years after the person’s death.
The bishop appointed Dr. Andrea Ambrosi as postulator for the cause. With Bishop Doerfler’s permission, a private association, led by Deacon Terry Saunders, which prays for and promotes Houle’s cause for sainthood, has been formed. It is fitting that Saunders was appointed by the bishop as president/moderator for the association, since Saunders believes he was healed through Houle’s intercessory prayers in 1993.
Houle was raised in Spalding and attended Harris High School and St. Joseph High School in Escanaba. After graduating in 1944, he joined the Army and served overseas until 1946. He had his future wife, Gail, met in 1947, fell in love, and were married within six months. The pair made their home in Escanaba, where they raised five children: Steven, Peter, John, and twins Matthew and Margo. They were parishioners at St. Joseph and St. Patrick Church. He was a 4th degree Knight of Columbus and worked in retail and manufacturing.
To learn more about the Houle cause, read The U.P. Catholic’s story, “Irving Houle: Messenger of Christ,” in the Dec. 21, 2018 issue available at http://bit.ly/2XamMe4.