The following comes from a March 28 Santa Cruz Sentinel article by Matt O’Brien:
SAN JOSE — Family members of labor leader Cesar Chavez led a march in his honor Saturday through the neighborhood where he once lived, and some supporters also used the birthday commemoration to revive a movement to make Chavez a Catholic saint.
“This is the beginning of a campaign to canonize Cesar Chavez,” said Rudy Chavez Medina, a nephew of the legendary California activist. “When you look at Cesar’s life — and all the lives he touched — that’s a miracle.”
Laying out a detailed case for Chavez’s canonization was the Rev. Jon Pedigo, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, whose proposal was met with surprise and elation from some veterans of the United Farm Workers movement.
The process of officially declaring someone a saint requires a long, complicated investigation by the Catholic Church, usually to prove that the person miraculously cured physical ailments. But Pedigo said it can begin with a popular movement.
Librado Chavez, 80, said he would be happy if his older brother was made a saint.
“That would be great,” he said as he led the march carrying a tapestry showing the Virgin of Guadalupe. “I’m all for it.”
But older sister Rita Chavez Medina, 89, who was inseparable with Cesar Chavez during their youth, said her brother would have opposed such a grandiose idea.
“He was a famous man, but to me he was my brother,” she said. “He would have said, ‘Why me?’ ”
An earlier movement to make Chavez a saint, which began in the Bay Area in 2007, stalled because of the opposition of high-ranking clergy such as the Rev. John Steinbock, bishop of the Fresno Diocese. There, Pedigo said, animosity still exists between union organizers and the farm owners, many of them also Catholic, with whom they were at loggerheads.
But that could change because of the growing recognition of Chavez’s transformative work in lifting up the lives of Latino laborers and other marginalized people, Pedigo said.
Some said Saturday that Chavez’s good works were on par with modern-day figures such as Mother Teresa, who was beatified in 2003, and Archbishop Oscar Romero, killed by a right-wing El Salvador death squad in 1980 and officially declared a Catholic martyr last month by Pope Francis.
“What a saint does is awaken the holiness in other people,” Pedigo said. “Cesar Chavez is already a de facto saint for people who are looking for social change.”
Among the marchers who agreed with Pedigo was Dave Cortese, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. The former mayoral candidate said that as a Catholic he hopes to see Chavez become a saint one day.
Social “transformation qualifies as a miracle,” Cortese said. “It doesn’t need to be just physical healing.”