Catholic News Service photo
Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley gestures during a interview at his residence, the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
Catholic News Service photo
Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley gestures during a interview at his residence, the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
BRAINTREE, Mass. — It was a "great blessing" for the Boston Archdiocese that Father Joseph Muzquiz, an Opus Dei priest who is a candidate for sainthood, touched "the lives of so many people" with his ministry, said Cardinal Sean O'Malley.

"We are so blessed by the presence of many people who are living the spirituality and the charism of St. Josemaria Escriva in Opus Dei," he said after a ceremony that closed the archdiocesan phase of Father Muzquiz's cause.

The cause was officially opened in June 2011 in Boston, giving the priest the title of "servant of God." Since then, the Archdiocese of Boston has heard testimony from dozens of witnesses who knew Father Muzquiz.

Now all of the documents that have been collected and the transcripts of the testimony of the witnesses will be sent under seal to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes.

"Today is a very happy day," the cardinal said May 22. "The church exists to make saints, and so when we are able to recognize the heroic sanctity in some of our brothers and sisters, it is a great encouragement to all of us to live our baptismal call of discipleship with the same generosity and joy and fidelity that we find in the lives of people like Father Joseph."

Father Muzquiz joined Opus Dei in the 1940s and established the organization in the United States, working for many years in the greater Boston area. He died in 1983. St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer founded Opus Dei in 1928 in Madrid.

During the ceremony at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Braintree, the cardinal approved the evidence collected for the cause -- a stack of boxes that contained more than 9,000 pages of evidence detailing the life of the potential saint.

"Although the process is just beginning, even reflecting on the holiness of life of this great priest is of benefit to all of us, and we pray that his cause will advance quickly and that others will continue to be touched by the testimony of his life and his holiness," Cardinal O'Malley said.

In Rome, the documentation will be examined to determine if the priest heroically lived the Christian virtues. If so, the church will give him the title "venerable," the first step in the canonization process.

Before the next step -- beatification -- a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession also is needed. In general, confirmation of a second such miracle is needed for canonization.

Father Muzquiz was born in 1912 in Badajoz, Spain. In college, he met St. Josemaria just before the Spanish Civil War broke out. He joined Opus Dei in January 1940, and was ordained as one of the first three Opus Dei priests in 1944.

At St. Josemaria's request, Father Muzquiz came to the United States in 1949 to start Opus Dei's apostolic work, first in Chicago, then in other cities. In the late 1950s, he traveled extensively, laying the groundwork for Opus Dei's beginnings in Asia, and then working in Rome, Switzerland and Spain.

In 1976, he returned to the United States to become the head of Opus Dei in the U.S.

On June 21, 1983, Father Muzquiz died after suffering a heart attack while teaching a class at Arnold Hall Conference Center in Pembroke.

Since Father Muzquiz is buried in Boston, the investigation into his cause for sainthood fell to the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Boston. The archdiocese opened his cause for canonization in 2011.

In the opening session of the cause those working on the case swore to do their duty diligently and honestly. At the closing session, these individuals took an oath that they had in fact fulfilled that duty.

They included retired Boston Auxiliary Bishop Emilio S. Allue, who represented the cardinal during the investigation; Jessica MacMaster, who worked as a transcriber; Father Rodney J. Copp, who served as promoter of justice; Lily Holowinski, who was the notary during sessions; Julianne Shanklin, who stamped and signed each of the more than 9,000 pages; and Father David Cavanagh, postulator of the cause for the archdiocese.

Father Cavanagh, an Opus Dei priest, knew Father Muzquiz personally for seven years before his death, and spoke with hundreds of people who knew or had met the priest throughout the U.S. and around the world as part of his investigations.

Father Cavanagh will accompany the sealed documents to Rome.

"Many steps must still be taken before the church can give its definitive judgment regarding the servant of God. Today, I can say that many people from around the world pray to the servant of God with confidence that in him, they have a powerful intercessor before God," he said.