On Feb. 13, Pope Francis approved the canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman, a 19th-century Catholic convert from Anglicanism, whose theological insights on matters such as the development of doctrine and the role of the laity in the Church stand behind many of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

Cardinal John Henry Newman is pictured in an 1865 photo. Deacon Jack Sullivan of Marshfield, Mass., recently recounted in London how he was inexplicably cured from a severe spinal disorder after he recited a short prayer to Cardinal Newman, a 19th century theologian and convert to Catholicism. (CNS, courtesy Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory)

Prior to his conversion, Newman was a giant in the Anglican ecclesial community: a professor at Oxford University and a leader of the “Oxford Movement” — which was a revival movement designed to make Anglicans more aware of their Catholic roots.

Newman’s Oxford Movement studies, however, brought him to the conviction that the Roman Catholic Church was the one, true Church that Jesus Christ had founded in the first century. So, he made the very difficult decision to leave the Anglican ecclesial community (where he was revered and respected) and enter the Catholic Church (where he was held in suspicion by many, because of his anti-Catholic writings as an Anglican). He overcame those suspicions, however, through a life of faithful — and obedient — service as a Catholic priest and theologian.

Especially noteworthy was his devotion to the education and religious formation of young people. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Catholic centers at secular colleges and universities are known as “Newman Centers,” three of which are located within the Diocese of Phoenix: All Saints at Arizona State University in Tempe, Holy Spirit at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and Holy Trinity at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

In recognition of his obedience and faithful service as a priest, Newman received the cardinal’s hat from Pope Leo XIII on May 12, 1879. Now, he receives the ultimate honor by being canonized a saint and may someday be named as the patron of scholars and students.

St. John Henry Newman, pray for us!

This unsigned editorial was initially published Feb. 21 in the RHODE ISLAND CATHOLIC, newspaper of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island.