Audrey Marie Santo died in 2007 – 20 years after nearly drowning in a swimming pool – and Linda Santo is hoping her daughter’s legacy will be remembered in the Catholic faith community through the canonization process.
Santo spoke at the September Magnifcat breakfast meeting in Milwaukee and also was on hand for a celebratory event that included eucharistic adoration and Benediction at St. Jerome Parish in Oconomowoc.
“I’ve always been a Catholic, and I’ve been blessed in so many ways,” Santo said. “My children are married to the church; they’ve always been there. We have such a beautiful, rich heritage, spiritually.”
Audrey’s life story was well documented in the Catholic and secular press. She slipped into a coma after falling into the pool at age 3. According to information from the Apostolate of a Silent Soul, a group which, since 1996, had coordinated activities surrounding Little Audrey, she was overmedicated at the hospital, lapsed into a coma that lasted three weeks and was left in a state called “akinetic mutism.” When she awoke from the coma, she had limited functionality. She could move her eyes and fingers, but was unable to speak.
Santo said she had been encouraged to institutionalize Audrey in an extended care facility since Audrey was being kept alive by life-support machines. Santo, however, opted to care for her daughter at home. At age 4, Audrey received her first holy Communion. She received the Body of Christ in the form of a host through her feeding tube.
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on the Little Audrey Santo Foundation, visit
“Life is valuable at every level,” Santo said, explaining the key reason she made the decision in 1986 to make every effort possible to care for Audrey.
Early on, Santo said “miraculous events” had begun occurring wherever her daughter was present. Santo said the family’s Worcester, Mass., home was host to a number of images, deemed by the mother to be “miraculous.” Statues and pictures, for instance, reportedly exuded oil and bled. Santo also reported her daughter had shown scourge marks on her body. Additionally, Audrey reportedly depicted the crown of thorns around her entire head. A select number of visitors to the family home also reported being healed.
The occurrences have been a cause of wonder for many, but also drew skepticism and controversy from people in the Catholic and secular communities. In 1998, Bishop P. Reilly, then-bishop of the Diocese of Worcester, established a commission to investigate the phenomena. The commission did not confirm or deny the occurrences and the first phase ended with a January 1999 report that did not substantiate any miraculous happenings.
|“My children are
married to the church; they’ve always been there. We have such a
– Linda Santo
“The most striking evidence of the presence of God in the Santo home is seen in the dedication of the family to Audrey,” wrote Bishop Reilly in a 1999 statement. “Their constant respect for her dignity as a child of God is a poignant reminder that God touches our lives through the love and devotion of others.”
That first phase was to have been followed by more tests, but the tests were not conducted because they would have cost tens of thousands of dollars, the scientific testing would have been invasive for Audrey and interest in the case had waned, according to Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone, judicial vicar for canonical affairs for the Diocese of Worcester, as reported in a 2008 Catholic News Service story.
As people learned of Audrey’s story, Santo said people of faith from all over the world visited her home to pray and experience the alleged miracles. This continued until Audrey succumbed to cardio-respiratory failure. Clergy, family and friends were with the 23-year-old as she took her last breath on April 14, 2007.
More than three years after her death, Santo said Audrey’s influence throughout the world remains strong; her life story continues to touch people. Santo and her family have formed an organization, the Little Audrey Santo Foundation, that has continued to promote the power of prayer and Audrey’s short, but impacting, life.
Since losing her daughter, Santo has been promoting the woman’s canonization. Santo said Audrey has officially been declared a Servant of God, the first step in being declared a saint.
“The foundation’s top goal is to see the canonization process through,” Santo said. “We’re promoting the cause and using it as an opportunity to talk about how powerfully prayer works.”