Patrons of the Confraternity
Saint Edmund Campion
From the beginning of our work in the Coming Home Network International we have looked to Saint Edmund Campion for intercessory support. After his conversion from the Anglican Church to the Catholic Church, and then subsequent ordination to the priesthood, St. Edmund Campion (1540-1581) was appointed as a teacher in Prague. He was not content, however, to remain in Prague, safe from the terrors of anti-Catholic England where recusant Catholics were suffering continuous persecution. Instead, he returned secretly to minister to their needs. He refused to forget where he came from, even at the peril of his own life.
We hope his model will encourage CCC members to refuse to become “cushy” Catholics, melding into what may be nominal Catholic environments. St. Edmund should inspire us to remember the vows of our ordinations, and continue actively in service to Christ and His Church.
Like our elder-sister organization in England, the Saint Barnabas Society, we have honored this early Christian leader and evangelist. When news of conversions in Antioch had reached “the ears of the Church in Jerusalem … they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch” (Acts 11:22-26). It is for his efforts to exhort and encourage converts, and especially his success in finding and bringing back into service Saul (Saint Paul) that we seek his intercession for our work.
Father John Thayer
(Honorary Charter Member of the CCC)
Since our membership consists (at least initially) of mostly American clergy converts, we added as a patron intercessor Father John Thayer (1758-1815), the first American born Protestant clergy convert. The Church will probably never declare Father Thayer a saint, though he was remembered as an “excellent priest” by the second bishop of Boston and even compared to the Curé of Ars. However, he also had a difficult time getting along with others, particularly the first American bishop, John Carroll, as well as some of his co-religionists. Part of this was because of his personality, which Bishop Carroll considered far too “confident.” Mostly, though, his conflicts arose from his zeal, and because of his conviction to live in simplicity, in imitation of Benedict Joseph Labre, which was misunderstood and unappreciated by the Catholics of post-Revolutionary America.
Father Thayer was born in Boston, studied at Yale, and served as a chaplain under John Hancock during the American War of Independence. He then embarked on the “Grand Tour” of Europe to better prepare himself for a teaching career at Harvard College. But while he was visiting Rome, the mendicant Benedict Joseph LaBre died. Thayer set out to disprove all the miracles being claimed due to Labre’s intercession. In the end, the undeniable truths of the miracles opened his hard Puritan mind and heart, and he was received into the Catholic Church by Pope Pius VI in June, 1783.
His original intent was to return immediately to America essentially as a Catholic lay missionary to his Puritan countrymen, but under the encouragement of the Pope and the Archbishop of Paris, he instead returned to Paris where he studied at the Seminary of Saint Sulpice. In 1778 he received priestly ordination under the hands of the Archbishop of Paris as Missioner to the new United States of America.
He described his conversion in a famous book published in the 1788, An Account of the Conversion of the Reverend John Thayer formerly a Protestant Minister of Boston—the first of its kind published in America. In this account, Father Thayer expressed how he understood God’s calling for his life:
This is the prevailing wish, this is the only desire of my heart, to extend as much as lies in my power, the dominion of the true faith, which is now my joy and comfort. I am ambitious of nothing more; for this purpose I desire to return to my own country, in hopes, notwithstanding my unworthiness, to be the instrument of the conversion of my countrymen; and such is my conviction of the truth of the Roman Catholic Church, and my gratitude for the signal grace of being called to the true faith, that I would willingly seal it with my blood, if God would grant me the favor, and I doubt not but he would enable me to do it.
In 1790 he returned to Boston as the first America born priest in New England with the publicly announced mission to convert his Puritan countrymen to the true faith. Besides being one of the first three priests in Boston, he preached many of the first Catholic masses at other locations in New England, New York, Connecticut, Virginia, and Maryland. He then served as one of the first four missionaries of Kentucky.
After a very difficult four years in Kentucky, he returned to England in 1804 to raise funds and recruit priests and religious for the American mission. He spent the last years of his life in Limerick, Ireland, where he was very successful in bringing many back to the Sacrament of Confession—they were called Thayerites. It was through his efforts and endowment that the first Ursuline convent was established in New England (which was eventually burned down by an angry anti-Catholic mob in 1835).
We are asking for Father Thayer’s intercession because his experiences as a clergy convert were not dissimilar to the struggles many clergy converts receive today from life-long Catholics and the Church hierarchy.