They Might Be Saints
What is a miracle? The Catholic Church defines a miracle as a sign or wonder from God, such as a medical healing which can only be attributed to divine power. These wonders of God can be manifested directly or indirectly through prayers to specific Catholic saints and religious figures. The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago have long sought to elevate their foundress, Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik to sainthood. Through their efforts over the years, she has attained the title of “Venerable,” one who is declared to have lived a virtuous heroic life. The next steps are “Blessed” (when one miracle is accepted by the Church) and then ultimately the title of “Saint” (when a second miracle is accepted by the Church). While no miracle credited to her has been accepted by the Catholic Church, we continue to pray that one day she will be named a saint.
Michael O'Neill, the host of EWTN's The Miracle Hunter, smiles with Sister Jeanne Marie Toriskie and an actress playing Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik.
Recently the Sainthood Cause of Mother Mary Theresa caught the attention of Michael O’Neill, host of the weekly EWTN radio and television shows, The Miracle Hunter and Explore with the Miracle Hunter. His show The Miracle Hunter investigates and focuses on the phenomenon of miracles from all over the world such as religious visions, Marian apparitions, medical healings, instances of the stigmata display (the wounds of Christ) and other religious mysteries. Michael has long held an interest in the concept of miracles. “As long as I can remember, I have had a fascination with miracles. When I was a child, my mother used to tell me about the stories related to Our Lady of Guadalupe and I found that fascinating. I have always loved the stories of the saints and the idea that these holy, larger-than-life figures have walked amongst us is inspiring to me.”
This childhood interest in miracles continued into adulthood when he attended Stanford University and took an archaeology class. One of the projects assigned was to research a famous artifact that had a major impact on the world. Since he was so interested in the tales of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he researched the tilma, also known as the famous cloak belonging to Saint Juan Diego, who saw apparitions of the Virgin Mary on several occasions. The tilma displayed the venerated image of Mary. Juan Diego was canonized by the Catholic Church in 2002.
After he graduated from Stanford, Michael started the website MiracleHunter.com to take a more academic approach to miracle investigation. Eventually he expanded his work into books, newspaper articles, a radio show, and a television show. “I did a television pilot some years ago for a secular network and I caught the bug to do a show about miracles. When I stopped to think about it, I realized that the real “miracle hunters” were the vice postulators and promoters of canonization causes, so it seemed like a compelling subject. What is inherent in every canonization cause for a potential saint is the search for miracles, so telling the stories of saints and their miracles seems like a natural combination for me.”
Michael also wrote a book titled, They Might Be Saints: On the Path to Sainthood in America, which covers all 24 people who are declared Venerable and Blessed in the United States. Since Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik is Venerable, he included her story as a chapter in his book. “I grew up in the Chicagoland area and have a house in Chicago, so I have gotten to know the stories of saints and future saints from this area like St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, Venerable Maria Kaupas, Venerable Augustus Tolton and Venerable Mary Theresa Dudzik. When I wrote They Might Be Saints: On the Path to Sainthood in America, I felt it was natural to dedicate an entire chapter to her, so I learned as much as I could about her incredible life.”
They Might Be Saints: On the Path to Sainthood in America was published in 2022 and features a chapter on Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik.
Once his book was published in 2022, Michael met with Sr. Jeanne Marie Toriskie for an interview on Mother Mary Theresa’s life for his radio show (this interview is available for listening on our home page). After the radio interview they broached the idea of making an episode about Mother Mary Theresa for his television show. “I was honored to have the opportunity to interview Sr. Jeanne Marie, the promoter of her Cause on my EWTN Radio show and that really piqued my interest in a whole new way to want to do an episode on her life.”
Soon work began on creating the documentary on Mother Mary Theresa’s life soon after. The creative process of writing and producing each episode can be a challenge but ultimately rewarding, as Michael will go through an extensive research process to bring the future saint’s story to life. “A lot of research goes into each story from the background of the future saint’s life and the dynamics of what may have been going on in the Church or the world at that time. We always try to film where they lived and did their most important work which is usually where the canonization cause exists today. We also try to find the most compelling interview subjects as possible with the guidance and assistance of the Cause – this usually includes the local bishop, members of the guild, family members (where possible), historians, authors, devotees and recipients of a miracle, favor or blessing through the intercession of the might-be-saint.”
(Left) Michael O'Neill and the crew of The Miracle Hunter with Sister Jeanne Marie Toriskie. (Right) The crew filmed in St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Chicago.
Michael and his crew came to Our Lady of Victory Convent in Lemont to do interviews with various people knowledgeable about Mother Mary Theresa’s life. They also filmed in various Chicago locales such as the house where she lived and St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, where she began her life as a religious and started the congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. An actor recreated scenes from her life. “Through interviews with experts and recreations from the life of Mother Theresa, we portrayed her saintly life that made her virtues known and sheds light on the canonization process. We traced her story back to the beginning and showed scenes of the early days of her religious community and the service she provided for the elderly and poor. The goal of the documentary is to make her legacy known and show her impact on the world,” Michael said.
The documentary is scheduled to air on EWTN on September 20 at 8 AM, Mother Mary Theresa’s death anniversary. The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago received a preview of the documentary from Michael himself on September 13. Michael hopes the documentary will bring more attention to her story in providing inspiration to others and that she will eventually be named a saint in the Catholic Church. “The story of Mother Mary Theresa is inspirational. One can see how motivated she was out of love and care for the poor that she opened her home to them. She convinced her friends, gathered her money, entered religious life, and persevered through personal trials and challenges. Having lived a life of heroic virtue, we can feel assured that Mother Mary Theresa is indeed a saint in heaven with God. We also have great hope that someday she will be formally recognized a Saint by the Catholic Church. These beatifications and canonizations happen in God’s time when He deems it apropos that miracles come to light though her intercession.”
The crew filmed in various locations in Chicago.
Michael O'Neill provided a preview of the upcoming documentary to the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago on September 13.