Then, a 900-page document was bound, notarized and shipped to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, the 400-year-old Vatican agency that determines who will be recommended to the pope for sainthood. The Vatican also confers with the Consulta Medica, a team of top doctors who meet at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints about 20 times a year.
Here, the doctors scrutinize each case, searching for any possible scientific or medical explanation. Finally, each case must meet a rigorous test that determines whether the potential miracle was also instantaneous.
McCarthy's near-death experience as a child was officially confirmed as miraculous by the Vatican.
While the total number of Catholic saints is unknown, the Vatican estimates there are more than 7,000 saints to whom believers pray for help from beyond. Before his death five years ago this Friday, Pope John Paul II canonized almost 500 of them, more than all his modern predecessors combined. One of those saints was Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
Then 14 years old, Benedicta McCarthy attended Benedicta's canonization Oct. 11, 1998.
"It was really amazing and overwhelming," said McCarthy, who sat front and center at the ceremony with her family. "I felt really lucky at the time."
McCarthy said she thinks of herself as an ordinary person who believes miracles happen every day. She said she hopes her story will bring peace to others who need faith in something many find unexplainable.
"I feel really -- lucky that I'm here," she said, "[I] hope that it helped a lot of people."