Aviat, Francesca Salesia, Bl.

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Baptized Leonie (Leonia), educator and co-founder of the Sister Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales; b. Sézanne, France, Sept. 16, 1844; d. Perugia, Umbria, Italy, Jan. 10, 1914. Leonie wanted to join the Visitation Nuns, but her family opposed her vocation. Her spiritual director, Father Louis Alexander Alphonse Brisson, suggested that she found a women's religious congregation. Thus, in Troyes, France (1866), animated by the spirit of Saint Francis de Sales, the Oblates began providing Christian education to young women working in the mills that sprang up during the Industrial Revolution. The first sisters took their vows in 1871 with Aviat as their superior general. Because of anti-Church legislation adopted in France at the turn of the 20th century, Mother Aviat moved (1903) to Perugia, Italy, where she began the order anew, wrote the order's constitution, and received the approval of Pope Saint pius x (1911). She died at age 69, having seen her work extended throughout Europe and to South Africa and Ecuador. She was declared venerable in 1978 and beatified Sept. 27, 1992 by John Paul II, following the inexplicable healing of a 12-year-old South African boy in 1991. A second miracle attributed to her intercession, the spontaneous healing of a 14-year-old girl with a tethered spine in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1992, was approved Dec. 18, 2000. Mother Francesca Salesia was canonized Nov. 25, 2001.

Feast: Jan. 10.

Bibliography: m.-a. d'esmauges, Leonie Aviat, Mutter Franziska Salesia, die Gründerin der Oblatinnen des hl. Franz von Sales (Eichstatt 1993), tr. from Italian Leonie Aviat Madre Francesca di Sales (Padua 1992).

[k. i. rabenstein]