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March 16, 2000


The Medical Board of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican has ruled that there is no medical explanation for the cure of a young Philadelphia area girl who suffered from a spinal ailment. The cure is attributed to the intercession of Blessed Frances de Sales Aviat of France, Foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales. The Medical Board decision brings Mother Aviat one step closer to canonization as a saint.

Since the alleged cure occurred in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the diocesan inquiry regarding the case was opened by Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua on September 8, 1994 and concluded on November 15, 1994. The cause has been in process in Rome ever since.

"The events of these past weeks have been exciting for the Oblate Sisters and all those spiritually united in prayer for this cause. It is a testament to faith in prayer and an encouragement to all," said Sister Anne Elizabeth, Congregational Delegate to the United States. Since this announcement came shortly before the Holy Father's decision to canonize Blessed Katharine Drexel, Cardinal Bevilacqua expressed his profound gratitude at the news, recognizing that this case is further evidence that God is truly working in our midst.

The recent Vatican Medical Board decision means the case will now move to the Vatican board of theologians and then to Cardinals and Bishops who are members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If the Cardinals and Bishops of this Congregation recommend that the healing is the result of prayer to Blessed Frances de Sales Aviat, only then will the Holy Father declare that a second miracle has taken place - the final step needed for Mother Avait to be canonized a saint.

Background - Blessed Frances de Sales Aviat

Leonie Aviat was born on September 16, 1844 in Sezanne, France and died on January 10, 1914 in Perugia, Italy. In 1866, at the age of 22, she founded the Congregation of the Oblate Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales in Troyes, France. Committed to the spirituality of Saint Francis de Sales and to the evangelization of workers, the congregation was begun as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Young girls and women who worked in mills were offered security and a Christian education. The Congregation of Oblate Sisters of Saint Frances de Sales now has approximately 450 sisters in nine nations, involved in the educational, missionary and social services apostolates. The Congregation has three houses in the United States: Mount Aviat Academy in Childs, Maryland, Holy Cross Academy in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Sisters administer and staff Saint Bernadette School in Drexel Hill. The Congregation Motherhouse is in Troyes, France.

Chronology - Frances de Sales Aviat

1929-1934: Process of Inquiry introduced in Diocese of Perugia, Italy
April 9, 1957: Introduction of the Cause in Rome to Pope Pius XII
December 1, 1978: Mother Aviat declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II
December 21, 1991: Mother Aviat declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II

First Recognized Miracle

On December 21, 1991, Pope John Paul II issued a decree recognizing the miraculous cure of 12-year old Vincent Kesner from South Africa. Doctors were seriously considering amputation of Kesner's right arm because of intensive radiation burns and severe infection which resulted from radiation treatment intended to reduce a cancerous tumor. The child's cure occurred during a novena (9 days of prayer) to Mother Aviat by family, friends and the Oblate Sisters. Vincent Kesner's burn scars faded and the infection healed, in what physicians called an unexplainable phenomenon.

Second Alleged Cure

In March 1990, at the age of 12, a young girl from Delaware County, Pennsylvania experienced severe pain and underwent surgery for a tethered spinal cord. Two subsequent surgeries occurred in January and November of 1991. Her surgeon referred her to another physician, solely for pain therapy, since he felt that her case was insolvable.

Because of debilitating pain, the child was unable to attend school, socialize with friends, or participate in other normal activities. She was unable to stand upright and could only walk short distances in her home. The medical prognosis said the child would eventually become wheelchair bound.

A novena (9 days of prayer) was begun on March 22, 1992 to Mother Aviat to obtain a cure for the child's illness. The prayers were offered by family, friends, parishioners, classmates and others. On the 4th day of the novena, the child experienced a sudden and complete reversal of pain and debilitation. On March 31, 1992, the child's physician examined her again and stated that he found no medical explanation for her recovery.

Now, at 22 years of age, the young woman leads a normal life, holds full time employment and is able to participate in a full range of activities, including a physical fitness routine.

Catherine Rossi

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