Special Report: The Irving Houle Story

In the town of Escanaba, you would have been hard pressed to find a more simple, humble and hardworking man than Irving Houle.

Irving also had a deep love and devotion to his Catholic faith.

But Irving’s faith and life would take an unexpected and dramatic turn in 1993

It was Holy Thursday night and into Good Friday morning of 1993 when marks appeared on Irving Houle’s hands.

Irving had received what’s known as the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ.

“When it first came about it was very hard. Nobody knew what to do. Church, priests nobody. We didn’t either, neither did Irv he was just dumbfounded,” explained Deacon Terry Saunders.

Irving would soon begin a prayer ministry, traveling to churches, praying over people and laying his hands on them. Seemingly miraculous healings would follow his encounters and prayer with some people. One of those people is Terry Saunders a former member of the Michigan State Police and current deacon for the Diocese of Marquette.

Saunders was given five months to live in December of 1992 after doctors diagnosed him with stage four sarcoma.

“Somehow by the time May came around in 1993, I was still alive. And in June of 1993 they opened up my chest and took out some of the legions in my lungs. There had been thousands of them and they were down now to just five or six in each lung and they cut those out of my lung and they could find no evidence of any cancer,” recalled Saunders.

There are a number of other stories just like Terry’s. People would pack churches just for a chance to be close to Irving, but he never took credit for any of the miracles, and having the stigmata was something he always kept quiet.

“Never about him, always about the church and Jesus and you found yourself in a totally different light,” said Deacon Mike LeBeau.

Irving died in 2009. The Diocese of Marquette officially opened his cause for canonization in November of 2018. That means the Catholic Church will start looking at Irving’s life to possibly declare him a saint.

“I was thinking that was kind of out of our realm. Really. But you know, you don’t realize what your conception is of a saint that was my problem. I figured a saint was someone holy right from the day it was born. But then you read the lives of the saints and they all had a little trouble and then they come to,” said Irving’s wife Gail.

The church still needs to recognize two miracles attributed to Houle that took place after his death to give him the title of saint.

“I think Irving and his example for the church, showing the dignity of a worker, the importance of family, and that God wants to hold the sacrament of marriage in a higher elevation,” said LeBeau.

There is no time frame for when the church could declare Irving a saint, but ask anyone that knew him and they’ll tell you that day is coming soon.

“I know there are people who go to church today and pray and wake up every day and pray because they met Irving Houle, and by meeting Irving Houle they were introduced to Jesus,” said Saunders.