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Do you know the Saints and Blesseds of Canada?

on Saturday, 01 January 2011. Posted in Saints & Blessed

Saints and blesseds are given to the Church as examples of courageous lives to imitate and, for God's greatest glory, a number of men and women have, in some particular way, shaped the life of the Church in Canada. Some gave their lives to ensure that the Good News be heard throughout North America. Others, out of steadfast faith and profound love, dedicated their lives to the service of their brothers and sisters, whom very often were among the most underprivileged. Declared saint, blessed, or venerable by the Popes over the years, these extraordinary people are lights on the journey and examples of holiness and charity that Catholics can follow.

Canada has officially 11 Saints, 14 Blesseds, and 5 Venerables. How many of them could you name? Do you know any detail about their saintly lives? The following pages will help you to discover them.

The great majority of them were born in France and died in Canada. For example, when Brother Andre Bessette of Montreal (1845-1937), the humble lay brother credited with healing thousands of sick, and founder of St. Joseph's Oratory, was declared a saint in Rome last October 17, it was mentioned that he was the first male Canadian saint. So, the first saint born in Canada was a woman. Do you know who is she?

Answer: Marguerite d'Youville was the first saint born on Canadian territory (in Varennes, near Montreal, Quebec), in 1701. Canada's other saints include Marguerite Bourgeoys, who was born in France in 1620 and is considered the co-founder of Montreal, and eight French-born Jesuit martyrs who were killed during wars in the 1640s.

Until the 1980s, Canada counted only these Jesuit martyrs as Saints and three others as Blesseds. It is during those years that the late Canadian Cardinal Edouard Gagnon (1918-2007), who was at that time based in Rome as president of the Vatican's Pontifical Commission for the Family, championed the case of many Canadians, who became saint and blessed.

Now, let's meet the Canadian saints.

The North American Martyrs

The North American Martyrs, also known as the Canadian Martyrs or the Martyrs of New France, were a group of six Jesuit priests and two associates who came from France to work selflessly as missionaries to the Hurons in the colonial days of New France in the 1640s. Five were martyred in what is now Canada (near Midland, Ontario), and three in what is now the United States (near Auriesville, New York). There was not yet any bishop to assist them; the first bishop of Quebec, Blessed Francis Montmorency de Laval, arrived only in 1658.

The Martyrs are: St. Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649), St. Noël Chabanel (1613-1649), St. Charles Garnier (1606-1649), St. René Goupil (1608-1642), and St. Gabriel Lalemant (1610-1649). Having been martyred for their faith, they were beatified by Pope Pius XI on June 21,1925, and canonized by the same Pope on June 29, 1930. Their feast day is celebrated in Canada on September 26, and on October 19 in the rest of the world.

St. John de Brebeuf (1593-1649)

"The giant of the Huron missions" was born on March 25, 1593, in Normandy, France, and was noted for his physical height and strength and still stronger love of God. He arrived in Quebec City in 1625, and spent three years with the Hurons of Ontario, becoming a master of the Indian language, and winning their love and respect to such a degree that they wept when he was recalled to Quebec City for a time in 1628. Political questions obliged him to return to Europe in that year, but he was back in Canada in 1633, and among his Hurons the following year. He labored until 1649, in which year the luminous Cross he had seen in the sky the year before, presage of his martyrdom, became a reality for this glorious father of the Faith in America.

On July 4, 1648, when the Huron warriors had left to trade with their neighbors, the Iroquois attacked the Saint Joseph and Saint Michael Missions in Huron territory. Many inhabitants were massacred including Father Antoine Daniel who was riddled with arrows, and his body burned in the chapel in which he had been celebrating Mass.

On March 16, 1649, Father Jean de Brebeuf, aged 56, suffered one of the most horrible and cruel martyrdoms in the annals of Christianity. The Iroquois took him prisoner in the village of Saint Louis near the Georgian bay of Lake Huron. He was tortured, scalped; pieces of his flesh were removed and eaten before his eyes; boiling water was poured over him, and hatchets heated red-hot, were placed on his chest, back and shoulders. He did not utter a single cry. The Iroquois even ripped his heart from his chest to eat it, hoping in this way to acquire the courage of this "Lion of the Canadian Missions."

His young companion in the mission, Father Gabriel Lallemant, 39 years old in that year and of a delicate constitution, was martyred the next day. He had been forced to witness the death of his beloved Father Brebeuf. He cried out: "Father, we are given up as a spectacle to the world, the angels and men!" And he went up to him and kissed his bleeding wounds. Facing the same fate afterwards, he knelt down and embraced the stake to which he was to be tied, to make his final offering to God. He himself survived for longer still, seventeen hours. The Iroquois set fire to the bark they had attached to him; he was "baptized" in mockery of the faith, in boiling water, not once but many times. The savages cut the flesh of his thighs to the bone and held red-hot axes in the wounds. They finally tired of their task and finished him with a blow from an axe.

Nine months after the martyrdom of these two, Saint Charles Garnier, also missioned with the Hurons, fell victim in his turn. He was a valiant priest who had said: "The source of all gentleness, the sustenance of our hearts, is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament." He was of a wealthy family, and as a student in the Jesuit college of Clermont, would deposit his weekly allowance in the church's collection box for the poor. In the mission he slept without a mattress, and when traveling with the Indians, would carry the sick on his shoulders for an hour or two to relieve them. He died on December 7, 1649, while aiding the wounded and the dying; an Iroquois fired two bullets directly into his chest and abdomen. Seeing a dying man near him, twice he tried to stand and go to him, and twice he fell heavily. Another Iroquois then ended his life with an axe.

Saint Noel Chabanel had been a professor in France; he suffered the temptation to return to Europe when he saw clearly the state of the souls of the natives. He overcame it and made a vow in writing of perpetual stability in the Huron mission. He died alone when, pursued by the Iroquois in the company of a few of his Huron neophytes, he had to stop, exhausted, in the woods. He told the others to flee. It was later that an apostate Huron avowed he had killed him in hatred of the Christian religion and had cast his body into a river. He died on December 8, 1649.

The great missionary Isaac Jogues was martyred, as it were, twice; after being surprised by the Iroquois while traveling, he might have escaped from the midst of his Hurons who were being seized at the same time, but did not want to abandon them. He was tortured in ways like those we have described for the others, but he survived and was held prisoner under the most painful conditions for long months by the Iroquois of what is now New York State. He finally escaped and returned to Europe, aided by the Dutch. He was not recognized when he knocked on the door of the Jesuit house in Paris. When the Holy Father Urban VIII was asked for a dispensation for him to say Mass, since his fingers had been badly mutilated, he replied: "Can one deny the right to say Mass to a martyr of Christ?" The Saint returned to Quebec and offered himself for an Iroquois mission, saying he would not return. He was killed in 1646 by a sudden blow of an axe from behind, by a savage of the mission where he stayed.

During the original captivity of Father Jogues, his assistant, Brother René Goupil, was with him, a prisoner like himself. He was the first of the Jesuit martyrs to die. He was a donné, a coadjutor Brother who desired to come to the American missions to assist the priests, having been found to have too unstable a health to be ordained. He was said never to have lost the smile which characterized his gentle disposition. He died in 1642, when least expecting it, from the blow of an axe, while he was helping a little child to make the sign of the cross. Father Jogues succeeded in burying his young assistant, at once calling him a martyr, because slain in hatred of God and the Church, and of their sign which is the Cross, and while exercising ardent charity towards his neighbor.

And finally, Saint Jean de la Lande, who had "the heart of an apostle," engaged himself to work as an auxiliary of the missionaries, for love of Jesus Christ and souls. On the day of his departure, he was expecting to meet with death in the new world. Unafraid of the sufferings he knew awaited him, he accompanied Father Jogues and was slain in the same mission as the priest, on the following day, October 19, 1646.

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700)

Marguerite Bourgeoys established the first school in Ville-Marie (literally Mary's town, present-day Montreal) and founded the Congregation of Notre Dame, an order of religious women, largely responsible for bringing Christian education to many areas of the New World.

Marguerite was born in Troyes, France, on April 17, 1620. She was the sixth of twelve children. Her parents were devout people. When Marguerite was nineteen, her mother died. Marguerite took care of her younger brothers and sisters. Her father died when she was twenty-seven. On October 7, 1640, during a Rosary procession, she has a vision of the Virgin Mary who told her to go to Canada for the missions. Still hesitating, she hears a few years later the voice of the Blessed Virgin who said to her: "Go, I shall not abandon you. Then Marguerite did not hesitate anymore, left France on June 20, 1653, to arrive in Canada on November 16. Marguerite began the construction of a chapel in 1657, in honor of Our Lady of Good Help.

In 1658, she opened her first school. Marguerite realized the need to recruit more teachers. She returned to France in 1659 and returned with four companions. In 1670, she went to France again and brought back six companions. These brave women became the first sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame.

In 1693, Mother Marguerite handed over her congregation to her successor. The new superior was Marie Barbier, the first Canadian to join the order. Marguerite spent her last few years praying and writing an autobiography. On the last day of 1699, a young sister lay dying. Mother Marguerite asked the Lord to take her life in exchange. By the morning of January 1, 1700, the sister was completely well. Mother Marguerite had a raging fever. She suffered for twelve days and died on January 12, 1700. She was beatified by Pius XII on November 12, 1950, and declared a saint by Pope John Paul II on October 31, 1982.

St. Marguerite d'Youville (1701-1771)

Marguerite Dufrost de Lajemmerais, the future foundress of the Sisters of Charity, known as the "Grey Nuns," was born at Varennes, near Montreal, October 15, 1701, of Christophe-D. de Lajammerais and Renee de Varennes, the sister of Laverendrye, discoverer of the Rocky Mountains. She married François d'Youville in 1722, who treated her with indifference, and eight years later left her a widow with three children and a heavy debt. She was forced to carry on a small trade in order to meet her obligations. The only two of her sons who reached manhood became priests. Out of her own poverty, she helped the needy.

Mother d'Youville conceived an ardent devotion to the Eternal Father, which was to be the keynote of her life. Providence destined her to rescue from debt and ruin the hospital, founded in 1694 by Mr. Charon. When, in 1747, the General Hospital was entrusted to her, she had already, with a few companions living under a provisional rule, begun practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. When, in 1766, the General Hospital was destroyed by fire, fully resigned to her loss, she knelt with her sisters and recited the « Te Deum ». She died from a stroke on December 23, 1771. Her institute has spread throughout Canada and even to some of the neighbouring states. She was beatified in 1959 by Pope John XXIII, and declared a saint on December 9, 1990. Her feast day is celebrated on October 16.

Saint André Bessette (1845-1937)

Born on August 9, 1845, in St. Gregoire d'Iberville near Montreal, Canada, as Alfred Bessette, he was the son of a woodcutter, and eighth of twelve children. His father died in a work-related accident, his mother of tuberculosis, and he was adopted at age twelve by a farmer uncle who insisted he work for his keep. Farmhand, shoemaker, baker, blacksmith, factory worker. At 25, he applied to join the Congregation of the Holy Cross; initially refused due to poor health, but he gained the backing of Bishop Bourget of Montreal, and was accepted.

Doorkeeper at Notre Dame College, Montreal, Andre had a special ministry to the sick. He would rub the sick person with oil from a lamp in the college chapel, and many were healed. Word of his power spread, and when an epidemic broke out at a nearby college, Andre volunteered to help; no one died. The trickle of sick people to his door became a flood. His superiors were uneasy; diocesan authorities were suspicious; doctors called him a quack. "I do not cure," he always said. "Saint Joseph cures." By his death, he was receiving 80,000 letters each year from the sick who sought his prayers and healing.

For many years the Holy Cross authorities had tried to buy land on Mount Royal. Brother Andre and others climbed the steep hill and planted medals of Saint Joseph on it, and soon after, the owners yielded, which incident helped the current devotion to Saint Joseph by those looking to buy or sell a home. Andre collected money to build a small chapel and received visitors there, listening to their problems, praying, rubbing them with Saint Joseph's oil, and curing many. A larger basilica was built, which is now the world's largest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph. Brother Andre died on January 6, 1937 of natural causes; more than a million people paid their respects at his funeral. He was beatified on May 23, 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and canonized on October 17, 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI. (A longer biography of Brother Andre was published in our March/April 2010 issue.)

Now let us talk about those who have reached the "silver medal" of sainthood, the Blesseds.

Blessed André Grasset (1758-1792)

Here is something special: as most of the saints and blesseds of Canada first came from France, which is understandable, since the French missionaries were the first to bring the Catholic Faith to North America, we now have the opposite way, a blessed who was born in Canada and died in France. André Grasset de Saint-Sauveur was born in Montreal on April 5, 1758. His father is secretary of Mr. De Vaudreuil, the governor of New France. After the signature of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France cedes Canada to the English, and most of the nobility in French Canada decides to return to France, including the family of Andre, who is then six years old.

In 1783, at the age of 25, he is ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Sens. A few years later, it is the French Revolution: in 1791, all the priests of France are asked to pledge allegiance to a new "civil constitution of the clergy", in which the Bishops are appointed by the State, and not by Rome. The priests who want to remain faithful to Rome are then persecuted and killed.

At the beginning of 1792, Father Grasset takes refuge at the Eudist Fathers in Paris with about sixty other priests, waiting for the persecution to stop. He is arrested in August, 1792, and is imprisoned at the Hôtel des Carmes, the Carmelite monastery of Paris. On September 2, after a mockery of a trial, each one of the 92 priests and 3 bishops imprisoned must answer the following question: "Have you pledged allegiance to the civil constitution of the clergy?" When the priest answers: "No, my conscience forbids it", he is thrown outside the monastery, where soldiers finish him off with swords and bayonets.

Andre was 34 years old when he was martyred. He was beatified with 187 priests and the 3 bishops, called the "Martyrs of September", by Pope Pius XI on October 17, 1926. His feast is celebrated on September 2. He is thus the first Canadian-born blessed.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680)

Kateri Tekakwitha, the "Lily of the Mohawks," was born in 1656. Her mother was a Christian Algonquin who had been captured by the Iroquois. When Kateri was about four years old, her parents and brother died of smallpox, and she was adopted by her aunts and an uncle who had become chief of the Turtle clan. Smallpox had marked her face and seriously impaired her eyesight. As a result, Kateri was a very shy young girl.

In 1667, she secretly accepted the Gospel taught by Jesuit missionaries and was baptized at the age of eighteen. She lived her Christian faith and chastity courageously in the face of almost unbearable opposition, since virginity and the single life were considered out-of-step with her own culture. In her love of chastity, she was radically counter-cultural. Finally, Kateri was forced to escape to Kahnawake on the St. Lawrence, just south of Montreal.

Her whole life was devoted to teaching prayers to children and helping the sick and the aged until she was struck with a serious illness. She died in Kahnawake on April 17, 1680, at the age of 24. Her last words were "Jesos Konoronkwa," which means "Jesus, I love you." Fifteen minutes after her death – before the eyes of two Jesuits and all the natives surrounding her – Kateri's scars disappeared and her face was beautifully transformed. On June 22, 1980, she was beatified by John Paul II and became the first Native American to be declared "blessed." Her feast is celebrated on April 17 in Canada, and on July 14 in the United States.

Blessed Marie de l'Incarnation (1599-1672)

Marie Guyard, the first superior of the Ursuline Sisters in Quebec City, was born in Tours, France, on October 28, 1599. At the age of seventeen, in obedience to her parents, she was married to Claude Martin, a silk manufacturer, and devoted herself without reserve to the duties of a Christian wife. The union was a source of trials: the only consolation it brought her was the birth of a son, who afterwards became a Benedictine as Dom Claude, wrote his mother's biography, and who died in the odour of sanctity. Left a widow after two years of married life, she entertained the idea of joining the Ursuline Sisters of Tours, but the care which her child required of her delayed the realization of this project, until he had reached the age of twelve in 1631, when she followed her vocation unhesitatingly, and became Sister Marie de l'Incarnation.

The care of the novices was confided to her two years after her entry into the convent. She always felt intense zeal for saving souls, and at the age of about thirty-four, she experienced new impulses of « the apostolic spirit which transported her soul even to the ends of the earth »; and the longing for her own sanctification, and the salvation of so many souls still under the shadows of paganism, inspired her with the resolution to go and live in America. She communicated this desire to her confessor, who, after much hesitation, approved it.

After a perilous voyage of three months, Marie de l'Incarnation arrived at Quebec City in 1639. In the spring of 1641, the foundation-stone was laid of the Ursuline monastery, on the same spot where it now stands. Marie de l'Incarnation was acknowledged as the superior. To be the more useful to the aborigines, she set herself to learn their languages immediately on her arrival. On December 29, 1650, a terrible conflagration laid the Ursuline monastery in ashes. On May 29 of the following year, she inaugurated the new monastery. She died in Quebec City on April 30, 1672, and was declared blessed by Pope John Paul II on June 22, 1980. Feast day: April 30.

Blessed François de Laval (1623-1708)

François Montmorency de Laval, who was to become later the first Roman Catholic bishop of Canada (and of North America) — was born on April 30, 1623,in Montigny-sur-Avre, Normandy, France. He was ordained on May 1, 1647. He became a member of the Paris Foreign Mission Society at the age of thirty, and was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Tongkin, Indochina (modern Vietnam) in 1653, but family obligations and the turmoil of the region prevented him from moving there. He resigned his position in 1654 to spend four years in a hermitage in Caen.

In 1658, Pope Alexander VII appointed him Vicar Apostolic of New France, with the title of Bishop of Petrea. He was consecrated as a bishop on December 8, 1658, and arrived in Quebec City to take up his new duties on June 16, 1659. His territory covered all of Canada and the central section of what would become the United States — a territory now divided into about a hundred dioceses. It was an enormous frontier diocese in need of administration, stability, and evangelization, and Francis approached it as spiritual work. He promoted missionary work, and supported missionaries from the Jesuits and Recollect Franciscans. He restored the shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupré, built the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, founded the seminary of Quebec in 1663, promoted devotion to the Holy Family, and started the Catholic school system throughout Canada. Quebec City was established as a diocese in 1674, and Laval was consecrated its first bishop. (Baltimore, the first diocese in the United States, was established in 1789.) He fought the alcohol trade to the Indian tribes, had it outlawed within his territory, and excommunicated those who dealt in it. His work slowed the trade and improved the lives of the natives, but made him many enemies within the liquor trade.

In 1684, he went into retirement, living as a hermit at the seminary in Quebec, hoping to live out his life in prayer. However, disastrous fires in November 1701 and October 1705 brought him out of retirement to oversee the needed construction, and he was ever involved in charitable work for the poor, and available to consult with his successor. He died on May 6, 1708, and was beatified on June 22, 1980 by Pope John Paul II. His feast day is May 6.

Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher (1811-1849)

Eulalie Durocher was born on October 6, 1811, at St. Antoine sur Richelieu, near Montreal, Canada, the tenth of eleven children. After her education at the hands of the Sisters of Notre Dame, she helped her brother, a parish priest in Beloeil, and in the process established the first Canadian parish Sodality for young women. In 1843, she was invited by Bishop Ignace Bourget of Montreal to found a new congregation of women dedicated to Christian education. Accordingly, she founded the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and took the religious name of Marie Rose. Under her saintly and wise leadership, her community flourished in spite of all kinds of obstacles, including great poverty and unavoidable misunderstandings. She remained unswerving in her concern for the poor. Worn out by her many labors, Marie Rose was called to her heavenly reward on October 6, 1849, at the age of thirty-eight. She was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982. Her feast day is October 6.

Blessed Marie Leonie Paradis (1840-1912)

Elodie Paradis was born in the village of L'Acadie in Quebec, Canada, on May 12, 1840. Her parents were poor but devout Catholics. Her father worked hard, running a mill. But times were bad, and the mill did not produce enough to support his wife and children. He heard wonderful reports of the gold rush in California. He was so desperate that he decided to go. In California, Mr. Paradis did not find the wealth he hoped for. When he returned to L'Acadie, he was shocked to find that his Elodie had joined the convent. She had entered the Holy Cross congregation on February 21, 1854. Mr. Paradis went to the convent. He begged his daughter to return home, but she chose to remain. Finally, her father accepted it. She pronounced her vows in 1857.

Marie-Leonie taught school in different cities. She prayed and lived her life joyfully. As time went on, Sister Marie-Leonie was led by Jesus to begin a new religious order in the Church. In 1874, she was called upon by Father Camille Lefebvre to direct the young Acadian women in New Brunswick in the service of the College of Memramcook; this is where, in 1880, she officially founded her Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family devoted to the service of priests.

In 1895, Bishop Paul LaRocque of Sherbrooke favored the transfer of the community by welcoming them to his diocese. The Foundress gradually came to serve more than forty houses, until God called his servant to Himself on May 3, 1912. That very day, she had had the joy of receiving permission to print the "Little Rule" of the constitutions, which she had been patiently awaiting for twenty years. After the end of the evening meal, she suddenly went to her final sleep after saying to a sick Sister: "Good bye. See you in heaven." She was seventy-one years old. She was beatified on September 11, 1984, in Montreal by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Canada. Her feast is celebrated on May 4.

Blessed Louis-Zéphirin Moreau (1824-1901)

Louis-Zephirin Moreau was born on April 1, 1824 in Bécancour, Quebec, Canada, the fifth of thirteen children. He was educated in his native parish until the age of fifteen before being admitted into the Seminary of Nicolet. In 1844, he received the ecclesiastic habit at Quebec City, but in 1845, Bishop Signay sent him back home, because he found him to be in fragile health. It would take more than this setback to discourage the young man on his path towards the priesthood. He then begged Bishop Bourget of Montreal to permit him to achieve his dream at the Ecole de theologie of Montreal. This was accomplished, thanks to the kindness of Msgr. Prince, head of this institution.

Father Moreau was ordained a priest on Dec. 19, 1846, at the age of 22. Six years later, Msgr. Prince became the first titular of the new diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe, and he appointed Father Moreau as secretary-chancellor. The apprenticeship of the future prelate was as parish priest for the cathedral, and he was five times administrator of the diocese. On January 15 1876, at the age of 51, Father Moreau became the fourth bishop of Saint Hyacinthe. His motto: "There is nothing I cannot do in the One who strengthens me." (Phillipians 4:13.) As bishop, he founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Saint-Hyacinthe and the Sisters of Saint Martha, and remained what he had always been: "good, simple, humble, and poor". He died on May 24, 1901, and was beatified on May 10, 1987, by Pope John Paul II. Feast day: May 24.

Blessed Frédéric Janssoone (1838-1916)

Blessed Frederic Janssoone was born in Flanders, France, on November 19, 1838. His life took many interesting turns. His was not an ordinary nineteenth-century way of life. Frederic was born of wealthy farm parents, and he was the youngest of thirteen children. He was just nine when his father died, so the boy left school to help support his mother. He soon realized that he had a « knack » for selling. He enjoyed people. He liked meeting new people, and he knew how to explain his products.

Frederic's mother died in 1861. It was then that the twenty-three-year-old reached into his heart in search of his own life's call. He realized that he was experiencing a strong desire to join the Franciscan Order. After his seminary studies were finished, Frederic was ordained a Franciscan priest. He became a military chaplain for a time. Then, in 1876, he was sent to the Holy Land. Father Frederic preached the Gospel in the places made sacred by Jesus Himself. He used his skills to help various groups of Christians cooperate in the upkeep of two sacred churches. He built a church in Bethlehem. Blessed Frederic is also remembered for reviving an old custom of having pilgrims make the Stations of the Cross throughout the streets of Jerusalem.

Father Frederic's ministry in Canada began when he was transferred there in 1881. He was sent on a fundraising tour. In 1888, he returned to Canada to stay, and was to spend the rest of his life there. It is that year that he contributed to the foundation of the national Marian shrine of Our Lady of the Cape, where he was a preacher for fourteen years.

Father Janssoone was an interesting person and a fascinating writer. He wrote several articles and biographies of saints, and was even going door to door to sell his books, even passed the age of 70. Father Frederic died in Montreal on August 4, 1916. His remains are kept in the Franciscan monastery of Trois Rivieres, Quebec. He was was declared "blessed" by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988. His feast is celebrated on August 5.

Blessed Catherine de Saint-Augustin

Catherine de Longpré was born in Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, Normandy, on May 3, 1632. Raised mainly by her grandparents, she became familiar at a very young age with both the virtues as well as the misery of the poor and the sick, thanks to her grandmother's kindness towards these people. As a response to several callings and to her own natural sensitivity towards the poor, she entered the Monastère des Augustines hospitalières de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Bayeux (an Augustine Monastery) in 1644. She would from then on be known as Marie-Catherine de Saint-Augustin.

In 1648, at the age of 16, she left France in order to assist the Hospitalières de Québec (nurses), who had founded the Hôtel-Dieu nine years before her arrival. She became very sick during the sea voyage from France to New France, but was miraculously healed by the Blessed Virgin Mary. She arrived in Quebec City on August 19, and began her job immediately. She was an expert in economical and hospital functions, as well as a teacher of the noviciate, and so she therefore devoted her life to the service of others. Moreover, the Hurons affectionately gave her the name "Iakonikonriostha", meaning "she who makes the interior more beautiful". She died on May 8, 1668, at the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, at the age of 36.

Thanks to her role as co-founder of the Canadian Church and to her involvement in the salvation of New France, Catherine de Saint-Augustin was beatified on April 23, 1989, by Pope John Paul II. Her feast is celebrated on May 8.

Blessed Dina Bélanger (1897-1929)

Dina Bélanger was born in Quebec City on April 30, 1897. She was raised by her pious parents, and studied first at the St. Roch Convent, then at Bellevue College. She then headed to New York City to embark on two years of musical studies. Her first profound experience with God occurred on March 25, 1908. She returned to Quebec City in 1918.

Upon her return, she agreed to give a few piano concerts for charity, but eventually Dina Bélanger, along with her mother, decided to devote herself entirely to the poor. She entered the Noviciat de Jésus-Marie in Sillery in 1921, professing her vows two years later, becoming Sister Mary St. Cecilia of Rome. She then devoted herself to the educational undertaking of her own religious congregation, mainly through music education. She died of pulmonary tuberculosis on September 4, 1929, at the age of 33.

Though she had numerous "mystical encounters" with Jesus, she never profoundly spoke of them at any other time other than in her autobiography, published in 1934. It is therefore this autobiography that teaches us who Dina Bélanger truly was, as well as the nature of her relationship with Jesus and Mary. According to the testimony that she gives in her autobiography, the mission that Jesus had confided to her was to guide souls to His Eucharistic Heart. Dina's spiritual life was marked by prayer, fidelity, and a trusting abandonment to God. It was also marked by her illness from which she suffered in complete serenity. Above all, she was at all times intimately connected with Jesus, her one and only Love, the path to the Holy Trinity. "Love, and allow Jesus and Mary do what they will", such was the motto that she lived by through her entire religious life. She was declared Blessed on March 20, 1993. The church celebrates her feast day on September 4. (For more details on her life, see our Oct.-Nov.-Dec, 2009 issue.)

Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin,

Esther Blondin, in religion Sister Marie Anne, was born in Terrebonne (Quebec, Canada) on April 18, 1809, in a family of deeply Christian farmers. Esther and her family were victims of illiteracy so common in French Canadian milieux of the nineteenth century. Still an illiterate at the age of 22, Esther worked as a domestic in the Convent of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame that had been recently opened in her own village. A year later, she registered as a boarder in order to learn to read and write. She then became a novice in the Congregation, but had to leave, due to ill health. 

In 1833, Esther became a teacher in the parochial school of Vaudreuil. In 1848, under an irresistible call of the Spirit, Esther presented to her Bishop, Ignace Bourget, a plan she long cherished: that of founding a religious congregation "for the education of poor country children, both girls and boys in the same schools."

The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Anne was founded in Vaudreuil on September 8, 1850. Esther, now named Mother Marie Anne, became its first superior. In 1853, the new chaplain, Father Louis Adolphe Marechal, interfered in an abusive way in the private life of the community. After a year of this existing conflict between the chaplain and the foundress, the latter being anxious to protect the rights of her community, Bishop Bourget asked Mother Marie Anne "to resign". Mother Marie Anne obeyed her Bishop whom she considered God's instrument.

Assigned to mostly hidden work in the laundry and ironing room, she led a life of total self-denial, and thus ensured the growth of the congregation. To a novice who asked her one day why she, the foundress, was kept aside in such lowly work, she simply replied with kindness: "The deeper a tree sinks its roots into the soil, the greater are its chances of growing and producing fruit." She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 29, 2001. Her feast is celebrated on April 18.

Blessed Émilie Tavernier-Gamelin

Émilie Tavernier was born in Montreal, Canada, on February 19, 1800, of modest parents, who were hard working and virtuous. She is the last born of 15 children. In 1823, Émilie Tavernier married Jean-Baptiste Gamelin, an apple grower by profession, in whom she found a friend of the poor who equaled her own aspirations. Their home was blessed with three children, but the happiness was soon overshadowed by the deaths of these children who had been welcomed with such love and devotion. During this same period, her husband, the one with whom she had lived so happily in faithfulness to the marriage vows that they had promised, died as well. Though confronted with these numerous trials, Émilie did not turn in upon herself in sorrow, but rather she found in Mary, Mother of Sorrows, the model that would orient her entire life!

A poor mentally handicapped child and his elderly mother were the first to benefit, not only from the resources left to her by her husband, but even more so by her time, her devotion, her well-being, her leisure, and even her health. Emilie's home becomes their home, and the number of residences multiplies in order to receive the indigent. During a period of fifteen years, she multiplied these "heroic acts of dedication". Bishop Bourget of Montreal called upon the faithful of his diocese, and soon recruits were sent to help Mrs. Gamelin. So it is that, in the House of Providence, the Sisters of Providence are born in the Church of Montreal. Emilie Tavernier Gamelin will join this group of religious, first as a novice, and then as their Mother Superior and foundress. Blessed Emilie died of cholera on September 23, 1851. She was beatified by John Paul II on October 7, 2001. Her feast day is September 23.

To conclude the list of the blessed, here are two Ukrainian Bishops who spend time in Canada and who were beatified in Lviv, Ukraine, on June 27, 2001, by Pope John Paul II. Their feast day is April 2:

Blessed Nykyta Budka (1877-1949)

The first bishop the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada was born on Sept. 7, 1877 in Dobomirka, Zbarazh District, Ukraine. Ordained on October 25, 1905, he was appointed first bishop for Ukrainian Catholics in Canada on July 15, 1912. The tasks for the first bishop were monumental as his diocese stretched from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans and encompassed approximately 150,000 Ukrainians and 80 churches and chapels.

In 1927, after 15 years of hard work in strengthening and expanding the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada, Bishop Nykyta Budka returned to Europe to compile and submit his report on the work accomplished to the Church authorities in Rome. His health did not permit him to return to Canada. For sometime, he was the general vicar to Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky in Lviv, where he was arrested by the Bolsheviks in 1945 and was exiled to Siberia. There, in a dismal prison barrack, his life ended in martyrdom on September 28, 1949.

Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky (1903-1973)

Vasyl Velychkovsky was born on June 1, 1903, in Stanislaviv, Ukraine, son of catechists Volodymyr and Anne Theodorowych Velychkovsky, and belonged to the Greek Catholic Church. He entered the seminary in Lviv, Ukraine in 1920, and was ordained on October 9, 1925. He became teacher and missionary in the Volyn region of Ukraine, and Prior of the monastery at Ternopil, Ukraine in 1942. Arrested for his "christianity" faith at Ternopil in 1945, he was condemned to death and sent to Kiev, where his sentence was changed to ten years in a forced labour camp. There he ministered to other prisoners.

His sentence served, he returned to Lviv in 1955. In 1963, he was secretly consecrated Bishop of the "clandestine" Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, and was arrested again for his faith and for listening to Vatican Radio, in 1969. He was sentenced to three years in the camps, where, between torture sessions, he ministered to other prisoners. When his health failed, he was released. He travelled to Rome, Italy, and then to Winnipeg, Canada, where he died on June 30, 1973.

Now let us talk about the venerables.

Venerable Vital Grandin (1829-1902)

Vital Grandin was born in St. Pierre-la-Cour, France, on February 8, 1829, in a family of thirteen children. He joined the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate, and was ordained on April 23, 1864 by the very founder of that community, St. Eugene de Mazenod, who sent him as a missionary to Canada. He spent most of his adult life in the northwestern area that would become Saskatchewan and Alberta. He became Vicar of Saskatchewan missions in 1867 and the first Bishop of the then vast and newly created diocese of St. Albert in 1871 (now called the Archdiocese of Edmonton, Alberta). His motto was "Infirma mundi elegit Deus" - God chooses the weak of this world. Through difficulties and dangers, he travelled incessantly over the vast prairie regions in an endeavour to save souls. He endured his crosses with true courage and with a genuine love for his fellow man. Bishop Grandin remained in this office until his death in St. Albert on June 3, 1902. He was declared Venerable on December 15, 1966.

Venerable Alfred Pampalon (1867-1896)

Alfred Pampalon was born on November 24, 1867, in the city of Levis, near Quebec City. Alfred desired to live his life as a son of Saint Alphonsus, as a Redemptorist priest. To achieve his dream, he had to travel to Belgium to study. A few years later, on October 4, 1892, he was ordained into the priesthood. But all too soon the signs of tuberculosis became evident. The disease would end Alfred's life within two years and cause him to suffer greatly. On September 4, 1895, he left Belgium to return home to Canada. A little before eight o'clock on the morning of September 30, 1896, on his deathbed, good Father Alfred opened his eyes and looked up smiling as he saw a vision. He breathed his last. The Virgin had come to take him home. He died at the age of 28, one year to the day exactly before St. Thérèse of Lisieux. He was declared Venerable on May 14, 1991.

The remains of Venerable Alfred Pampalon rest in the Basilica of Saint Anne de Beaupre, near Quebec City. He has come to be considered as the Patron of alcoholics and drug addicts, of people who are enslaved by narcotics. There are many testimonies of such favors obtained.

Venerable Elizabeth Bergeron (1851-1936)

Elizabeth Bergeron was born on May 25, 1851, in the village of La Présentation, near St. Hyacinthe, the fourth of eleven children. When she is fourteen, her family emigrates to Massachusetts, where she found her vocation teaching catechism to neighbourhood children after shift work in a U.S. factory.

A few years later, back in La Presentation, and despite rejections from three area religious communities, she was sought out by the Bishop of St. Hyacinthe, Blessed Louis-Zephyrin Moreau, and asked to establish a new order dedicated to teaching rural children. So in 1880, she and three companions took formal vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Hyacinthe. She is now called Mother St. Joseph. She passed quietly to her Maker on April 29, 1936, at the establishment that she had built. She was declared Venerable on January 12, 1996.

Venerable Délia Tétreault (1865-1941)

Delia Tetreault was born in Marieville, Quebec, on February 4, 1865. At the age of two, her mother died, and she was brought up by her aunt and uncle. She had a weak health, and was usually sick. When she was a child, she had a very significant dream. She was kneeling by her bed when, all at once, she saw a wheat field. The heads of the wheat each changed to heads of children from different parts of the world. At the age of 18, she asked to join the Carmelite Order of Montreal, but they refused her. She went to Sisters of Charity of St-Hyacinthe where she was accepted as a postulant. However, her poor health brought her back to her uncle.

Her dream was an apostolic school for women and a seminary for the foreign missions. She met Father Gustave Bourassa who was her guide, and he led her to all the important persons she needed to fulfill her dreams. In 1902, Bishop Bruchesi went to Rome and spoke to Pope Pius X about this new foundation. Pope Pius X immediately answered, "Found, found, and all the blessings of Heaven will fall upon this new Institute, and you will call them the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception."

In 1905, Delia had her perpetual commitment, and took the name Sr. Marie du Saint Esprit. In 1909, the first six Sisters of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception left for Canton, China. Within a short time, several convents opened in the Province of Quebec to support the missions. In 1933, a stroke left Delia paralysed. Her physical sufferings ended on October 1, 1941, leaving 554 sisters in 8 different countries. She was declared Venerable on December 18, 1997.

Jérôme Le Royer de la Dauversière

On July 6, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI declared venerable the Servant of God Jérôme Le Royer de la Dauversière, layperson of the diocese of Le Mans; married; founder of the Institute of the Daughters of Saint Joseph of Flèche (today the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph); born on March 18 1597, in La Flèche, Sarthe (France), and died on November 6, 1659, in La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime (France). Along with Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, he decided to found a new settlement in Canada, called Ville Marie (which was called later Montreal).

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