Bishop Miege remembers Mary Perrini as local priest works to have her considered for sainthood

Mary Perrini, right, with 2013 Bishop Miege graduate Maggie Salisbury.
Mary Perrini, right, with 2013 Bishop Miege graduate Maggie Salisbury. (Photo by Elaina Cochran/The Leaven, Contributed by Bill Creach)

When Mary Perrini passed away four years ago from stage IV colon cancer she left behind a legacy some consider to be worthy of sainthood.

Father Kent O’Connor, who gave the eulogy at Mrs. Perrini’s funeral, was a long-time friend and served as the Bishop Miege chaplain from 2003-2007. The night before Mrs. Perrini’s funeral, Fr. O’Connor Googled, “how to start the canonization process,” because, as he said in his homily, “We just might have a saint in our midst. And maybe, Mary just needs to be shared with the world.”

The first step in the canonization process says to wait for five years to let the emotion settle and back up for better perspective, Fr. O’Connor said. The next step, he said, was to make a formal petition to the bishop.

“So, Archbishop, I’m glad you’re here,” O’Connor said during the homily.

Mary Perrini (Contributed by Bill Creach)
Mary Perrini (Contributed by Bill Creach)

Bill Creach, who is the current director of campus ministry, started his career at Bishop Miege at the same time Mrs. Perrini did in 1988, said Mrs. Perrini needs to have two miracles officially declared by the Pope.

“There is a pathway to become a saint,” Creach said. “Beatification is the first part of the process. Usually it’s one miracle that has been identified and endorsed by the church. Then canonization is second part. So if someone is beatified they are Blessed Mary Perrini or Blessed John the 23rd. If someone is canonized, they are officially a saint in the church.

“Fr. Kent in the homily said, ‘Do you think Mary has the qualifications based on her life and witness and example? And the really cool thing is there aren’t a lot of lay saints in the Catholic Church. Most saints are sisters or brothers or Fathers or Cardinals or Bishops or whatever. There aren’t a lot of married saints or single saints.

Creach said once the word spreads about trying to make Mrs. Perrini a saint, people will need to come forward stating they prayed to Mrs. Perrini and a miracle happened. The miracle has to be verified by Rome.

Principal Randy Salisbury said Kapaun Mt. Carmel in Wichita is trying canonize Chaplain Emil Kapaun. He said one of the miracles is a pole vaulter missed the mat and suffered serious brain trauma. The student healed and is pretty much back to normal, Salisbury said, and family and friends prayed to Kapaun.

“We need a priest to be the spearhead of it,” Salisbury said. “I think we would follow in his direction because of Father’s relationship with Archbishop.”

At the high school, Salisbury said they want to come up with a book or shrine to honor, remember and keep her legacy alive. Perrini, who served at Bishop Miege High School for 25 years as a theology teacher and campus minister, was to turn 60 last week.

School leaders want to protect her legacy from the natural decay of time. Creach and Salisbury want to keep Perrini’s spirit alive by not just telling a Mrs. Perrini story or working her quotes into a lesson, but also to promote her and what she stood for.

One of the service awards at the school is named after her for students who have a lot of service hours. There are thresholds and students are expected to preform 80 hours of service to graduate. There’s a silver award, gold award and Mary Perrini Award for service.

“With the school, and the Bishop Miege community, I’d say it’s a legacy of service, compassion, humility, forgiveness,” Creach said. “She walked the walk, talked the talk. Just so many traditions we have going on, the kids might not know the origins about it, a lot of it stems from Mary Perrini’s vision for what living the faith is all about.”