Mother Paradis: third Canadian-born saint known for her ‘open arms and transparent heart’

Rome’s announcement of a third Canadian-born saint answers the prayers of Blessed Mother Marie-Léonie Paradis’ community and friends.
The Quebec-born founder of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family will join St. Marie-Marguerite d’Youville and St. Brother André Bessette as the only Canadian-born canonized saints, the Vatican said in late January.
The Friends of Mother Marie-Léonie say her canonization shows the native of L’Acadie Quebec still has contemporary appeal — and heavenly clout — even though she was born in 1840 and died in 1921.

Under the altar at the Centre Marie Léonie Paradis in Sherbrooke Que lies a glass coffin reliquary of the soon to be canonized and Quebec born Mother Marie Léonie Paradis

“Many people corresponded with the centre to obtain favours through the intercession of Blessed Marie-Léonie,” Sr. Rachel Lemieux, a member of the Little Sisters, told The Catholic Register. “We contacted them to propose a monthly animation. The only requirement to sign up was to pray for the success of the priests’ ministry and if they could collaborate in their parish’s activities in the spirit of Mother Marie-Léonie.”
The Centre Marie-Leonie Paradis is based in Sherbrooke, Que. In addition to a small museum in St. Michael’s Cathedral dedicated to Paradis, there is a website that has become the online home to the Friends of Mother Marie-Léonie.
From an early age, Paradis felt a call to serve Christ through the material support of priests.
She wrote, “It seems to me that priests need auxiliaries in their apostolic work and no one seems to be aware of this… This thought haunts me without let-up and strangely upsets me.”
Shortly before she turned 14, Paradis joined the Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross. She was sent by the order to work in various northern states including New York and Michigan. In 1874, she was moved to New Brunswick where she was put in charge of the novitiate.
It was in the context of a sewing workshop that Paradis organized for young Acadian women interested in religious life that the idea of a new venture, modeled on the life of Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus in Nazareth, was formed.
The Holy Cross Fathers, with whom the Marianites were affiliated, recognized the new community in 1880, but it took over 20 years for Mother Paradis to persuade Bishop John Sweeney of Saint John, N.B., to approve the institute as an autonomous religious community.
Paradis found a more sympathetic ally in Bishop Paul LaRocque of Sherbrooke, who in 1895 invited some of the sisters to serve in the diocesan seminary.
From there the institute expanded its ministry to include ecclesiastical houses throughout North America and even Rome.
A 1962 article in The Catholic Standard and Times detailed that the Little Sisters of the Holy Family served in the apostolic delegations of Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, at the archepiscopal residences in Montreal, Ottawa, St. Boniface and Rimouski, and that more than 30 members of the community were in service at the Canadian College in Rome.
Bishop LaRocque presided at Mother Paradis’ funeral Mass and noted that Paradis “always had her arms open and her heart was transparent. She was always ready with a hearty, open laugh, welcoming each person as if they were God Himself. She was a woman of the heart.”
Her reputation for holiness was firmly in place before her death, and Bishop LaRocque asked that Paradis be interred in a “steel casket duly sealed, so that her remains could be easily found.”
The formal cause for beatification was opened in 1952 and Mother Marie-Léonie was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1984 in Montreal.
For her canonization, the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints accepted the 1986 miraculous healing, attributed to Paradis’ intercession, of a newborn baby from “prolonged perinatal asphyxia with multiple organ failure and encephalopathy.”
Now, the Little Sisters of the Holy Family wait to hear news of the canonization ceremony. Lemieux told The Register that “we don’t have any details on the event yet,” but the community will be ready to celebrate their founder when the time comes.
The Friends of Mother Marie-Léonie will continue with requests for healing and assistance.
From at least one note of thanks on the website, it seems Blessed Mother Paradis is truly a saint with a Quebec touch.
“I’m sending you a donation for the healing of my sister who was ill. Also, for the fishing which was good. Thank you very much,” it reads.


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