In a move which has been described as a major event for the Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg, and the country, the recent plenary session (August 2018) of the South African Bishops’ Conference, approved, and laid the foundations for the opening of the Cause of possible beatification and canonisation for Daniel (Danny) and Maria (Domitilla) Hyams, founders of LITTLE EDEN Society.

Over the past number of months, the Archdiocese has been reflecting on the lives of Danny and Domitilla Hyams, co-founders of LITTLE EDEN Society, an organisation that cares for children and adults with profound intellectual disability. Domitilla had always felt a calling to be a missionary in Africa, and LITTLE EDEN became the way in which she not only gave expression to that calling but allowed her life to reflect the values and virtues that are consistent with holiness.

However, what makes this case special is that the Archdiocese is looking at both Danny and Domitilla Hyams as a couple (such as Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus). In other words, the Archdiocese will be researching how they lived out the virtues (such as prudence, charity, faith and hope) in their married and family life, within their parish community of Edenvale, and in their work of establishing and running LITTLE EDEN.

With both having passed away more than 7 years ago, this reflection is the first step in a long process that will investigate whether there are sufficient grounds for their case to be considered for possible beatification and canonisation. Following the necessary documentary and attested appointments subsequently formalised, the two Libellus (one for Domitilla and one for Danny) were presented to His Grace, the Archbishop. (A Libellus consists of the biographical review of the person whose Cause is being considered including a review of his/her heroic cardinal and theological virtues as well as his/her reputation of holiness. In addition the Libellus includes a listing of all people who personally knew the person and who could be called upon at the witness inquiry stage.) Following approval from the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference to proceed with this Cause, this documentary evidence concerning Domitilla and Danny was submitted to the Vatican (Congregation for the Causes of Saints) for approval to proceed to the next step which is the diocesan interviewing of the witnesses and a review of all written material by an historical commission.

It is not possible to give a timeline for this process as a separate independent inquiry will then be required by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints including meticulous and thorough inquiries into any alleged miracles attributed to the person whose Cause is under consideration. Some saints were only canonised as such centuries after their death. It is little wonder then that the procedural investigations towards sainthood has been described as one of the most rigorous yet formulated. Nevertheless as the greater family of LITTLE EDEN Society we continue to pray daily for a successful outcome – and for this we also request your prayers (special prayer cards are available at LITTLE EDEN Society for this Cause). Prayer, for Domitilla and Danny, was their publically stated most powerful ‘tool’. May it also be ours and yours for the couple’s eventual canonisation – which would be Africa’s first and only the world’s third couple to be honoured as saints!