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FIRST ON 3: Raleigh diocese says Wilmington-born priest’s worthy of sainthood

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Wilmington-born priest may be declared a saint in the coming years. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh recently announced it will begin the process to canonize Father Thomas Price. But what does it take to be acknowledged as a saint?

On June 20, 1886, Wilmington-born Thomas Price became the first North Carolina native ordained a Catholic priest. The ordination took place, interestingly enough, at the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, now known as St. Thomas Preservation Hall.

The man who could become the next St. Thomas began his priestly work here in the Port City, later working in Asheville, New Bern and Raleigh, where he set up an orphanage. Father Price also co-founded Maryknoll Fathers, a foreign mission society.

“His efforts in North Carolina not only didn’t overwhelm him, but they inspired him to do more,” said Rev. James F. Garneau. “He thought it was time that the United States, the American Catholic Church, would have a missionary effort that would even go overseas.”

Father Garneau of Mount Olive is one of the church leaders who is heading the effort for father price’s sainthood. Garneau says the formal process, which begins March 9, will not be a quick one. First a tribunal will study the life, virtues and reputation for sanctity of Father Price. Then the church will see if there are miracles that people believe were given through the inception of father price.

“If a miracle were confirmed, then the Holy Father (Pope Benedict XVI) might choose to take that as the occasion to declare him among the blessed,” Father Garneau said. “If after that there were to be another miracle, then the Holy Father can choose to declare him a saint.”

Though the process will take a lot of time, effort and hardwork, Father Garneau says Father Price is more than deserving of the opportunity to be considered a saint.

“I think he is a fascinating figure,” Father Garneau said. “Catholics have known about him and his work for generations. I think that kind of living example of the gospel, of faithful following, discipleship of the Lord Jesus Christ is always exciting. It is always brimming with interest because it wakes us up. To imagine that god is doing that in eastern North Carolina, I think, would be a great encouragement to christians through out eastern North Carolina.”

Father Garneau says there is no telling how long the process toward sainthood might take. He said it could happen in our lifetime, or it can happen generations down the road.

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