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December 18, 2000


Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia, announced today that Pope John Paul II decreed that a healing attributed to the intercession of Blessed Frances de Sales Aviat of a young girl who suffered from a spinal ailment is miraculous. The Holy Father's decree is the last major step needed for the canonization of Blessed Aviat. Cardinal Bevilacqua said, "I am deeply moved to announce to you that this morning in Rome, Pope John Paul II issued a decree officially recognizing a second miracle attributed to Blessed Frances deSales Aviat. We are here at St. Bernadette's Parish because this second miracle happened here, not far from where we are standing right now. God has once again come to us this time, through the intercession of Mother Aviat, the foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Saint Francis deSales, who teach here at Saint Bernadette's School."

Cardinal Bevilacqua made the announcement in Drexel Hill, PA, at St. Bernadette Parish, where members of Mother Aviat's order teach. St. Bernadette's is the home parish of Bernadette McKenzie, the recipient of Mother Aviat's miraculous intercession. Mother Aviat was born in France in 1844 and devoted her life to the educational, missionary and social services apostolates. Sister Anne Elizabeth, Congregational Delegate to the United States, said, "We are in awe in the truest sense of the word. We are in a state of veneration and wonder at the goodness of our God. God has truly visited and blessed his people. Our congregation is blessed. The life that our foundress Mother Aviat traced out for us is holy. The Church has once again affirmed our Salesian way of life."

In March, 1990, at the age of 12, Bernadette McKenzie 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. A novena (9 days of prayer) was begun on March 22, 1992 to Mother Aviat by family, friends and parishioners. 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.

"The 31/2 years that I fought the disease tethered cord syndrome was the most difficult time of my life," Bernadette McKenzie said. "However, since my cure in 1992, the years that I was ill have become nothing but a fading memory. On March 25, 1992, my life changed dramatically. On this day the effects of the disease left my body completely. The unbearable pain and my inability to walk correctly suddenly disappeared. I am so grateful to the Oblate Sisters of Saint Francis deSales and to Mother Aviat."

Since the cure occurred in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the diocesan inquiry regarding the case was opened by Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua on September 8, 1994. It was submitted to Rome in November 1994. On February 17, 2000 a board of medical experts decided that there was no scientific, natural or medical reasons for the cure. On June 23, 2000, a board of theologians decided that the healing was due to the intercession of Mother Aviat. On December 5, 2000, a board of cardinals and bishops, members from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, recommend the healing to the Holy Father as miraculous. Today the Pope issued the decree that the healing is miraculous. A canonization date has not yet been announced.

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Marie Kelly
Associate Director

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