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ROME (LifeSiteNews) — The daughter of famed American author Nathaniel Hawthorne has been formally declared “venerable” by the Catholic Church as the cause for her canonization progresses.

Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, also known as Mother Mary Alphonsa, was a Catholic convert who ultimately founded a religious order devoted to serving people with incurable cancer living in poverty.  

Mother Mary Alphonsa’s order, known as the Hawthorne Dominicans said in a March 14 announcement, “It is with joy that we announce that Mother Mary Alphonsa’s (Rose Hawthorne) cause has advanced from Servant of God to Venerable Servant of God by the Congregation of Saints in Rome.”

“At this point miracles will begin to be examined,” the announcement read. “It is our hope that the heroic and holy life of our foundress will be a source of inspiration to more people.”

The process for canonization in the Catholic Church begins on the diocesan level, and the bishop of the potential saint’s diocese is tasked with overseeing the initial investigation, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The documents summarizing the evidence of the person’s holiness are then forwarded to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, whereupon the person is considered a “servant of God.” A favorable decision will then be brought to the pope to approve a declaration that the individual is “venerable.” If a verified miracle can be attributed to the person, evidence is then presented to the pope recommending that the person be “beatified,” or declared “blessed.” If the pope approves the beatification, the process can move toward canonization.

Finally, upon verification of another miracle and papal approval, the person will be formally declared a saint.

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Rose Hawthorne Lathrop had a varied life that included marriage and motherhood prior to her religious vocation.

She was born to Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne in 1851 in Lenox, Massachusetts, the last of the couple’s three children, according to a biography published on her order’s website. Though raised around Unitarianism and Transcendentalism, a then-novel belief system popular among writers and artists in New England at the time, Rose became familiar with Catholicism during her travels with her family in Europe.

The family moved to Germany following Nathaniel’s death in 1864 at just 59 years old. It was in Germany that Rose met and married her husband, American magazine editor and copyright law architect George Parsons Lathrop, in 1871. The marriage, however, was troubled and marked by tragedy and financial instability. The couple’s only child, Francie, died of diphtheria in 1876, and George struggled with alcoholism. The couple converted to Catholicism in 1891 but formally separated in 1895. Following the separation, Rose enrolled in a training course for nursing and became deeply interested and then actively involved in caring for cancer patients living in poverty. 

Three years after their separation, in 1898, Rose’s husband died at just 46 years old. The following year, Rose acquired a house in New York where she cared for fifteen poor women suffering from cancer. She became a Dominican tertiary in 1899, and in 1900 Archbishop Michael Corrigan granted permission for Rose to profess her first vows and begin a Dominican religious community.

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Rose Hawthorne Lathrop then became known as Mother Mary Alphonsa and served in her religious vocation for three decades before her death at 75 years old on July 9, 1926, at her order’s motherhouse, Rosary Hill Home.

In 2003, New York archbishop Cardinal Edward Egan opened the cause for Mother Mary Alphonsa’s canonization.

National Catholic Register reported that the Hawthorne Sisters currently have 47 members between their two locations: the original motherhouse in New York and another home in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The order describes themselves as being “committed to the traditional pillars of Dominican Life: Prayer, Community Life, Study, and Preaching.” The sisters are dedicated to serving the poor and sharing the Gospel with poor people of all religious backgrounds who have been diagnosed with incurable cancer.

If Mother Mary Alphonsa is officially canonized, she will be one of less than a dozen Americans to be officially recognized as saints. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton became the first person born in America to be declared a saint when she was canonized in 1975. The first American immigrant to be canonized was Mother Frances Cabrini in 1946. To date, only 11 Americans, native-born or otherwise, have been declared saints in the Catholic Church.