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March 13, 2001


Pope John Paul II announced today that he has approved the canonization of Blessed Frances de Sales Aviat of France and that he will canonize Mother Aviat as a Saint on November 25, 2001 at Saint Peter's Square in Rome. The Pope's announcement came at a meeting of Cardinals held in Rome this morning. The meeting, known as an ordinary public consistory, took place so that the Holy Father could receive the advice of the Cardinals regarding the possible canonization of Blessed Aviat, and other 8 other Blesseds. Three others will be canonized on November 25th: Bishop Giuseppe Marello, Paola Montal Fornes, and Maria Crescentia Hoss.(Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia, was not in Rome for the consistory. He is currently attending a meeting in Washington, D.C. Cardinal Bevilacqua submitted his endorsement of the canonization by mail, as is customary for Cardinals not on permanent assignment in Rome).

"This is the final step before the canonization ceremony and a time of great joy," said Cardinal Bevilacqua. "The Oblate Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales are justifiable in their own rejoicing, for they have prayerfully awaited this important announcement. Their joy is shared by those of us in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and most especially at Saint Bernadette Parish in Drexel Hill, where many people have devoted their prayers to the intercession of Blessed Frances de Sales Aviat. This is a great affirmation of the life of holiness and special consecration to God lived by Mother Aviat."

Sister Anne Elizabeth, O.S.F.S., the Oblate Sisters' Congregational Delegate to the United States, said "We are thrilled that the final step leading to the canonization of our foundress, Mother Aviat, has been taken. Her gentleness and her selfless giving to those she served are an encouragement and example to all. This is a grace-filled moment for us: our foundress is to be declared a Saint and the life she led now serves as a model for each of us. These graces are for all of us to share: her spiritual daughters who strive to follow her path of gentleness and humility, all in our Salesian family who follow the spiritual teachings of Saint Frances de Sales, and all those throughout the world who try to lead a life of holiness."


Born Leonie Aviat in France in 1844, Mother Frances de Sales devoted her life to the educational, missionary, and social services apostolates. She was the Foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales, who staff Saint Bernadette Parish School in Drexel Hill. Saint Bernadette's is the home parish of Bernadette Marie McKenzie, recipient of Blessed Aviat's miraculous intercession. 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, Bernadette experienced a complete reversal of pain and debilitation. On March 31, 1992, her physician examined Bernadette again and stated that he found no medical explanation for her recovery.

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 council of medical experts decided that there was no scientific, natural, or medical explanation for the cure. On June 23, 2000, a board of theologians determined that the healing was due solely to the intercession of Mother Aviat. On December 5, 2000, a group of cardinals and bishops, who are members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, recommend the healing to the Holy Father as miraculous. On December 8, 2000, the Pope issued the decree that this cure was a miracle attributed to the intercession of Mother Aviat. Today, the Holy Father announced that Blessed Frances de Sales Aviat will be canonized a Saint on November 25, 2001. ###

Catherine Rossi
Director of Communications

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