Monday, October 18, 2010

First Canadian born Saint was a woman, Marguerite d'Youville, not Brother Andre

First Canadian- born saint article by Ellin Bessner, Canadian Press

With all the excitement this weekend about the Vatican naming Montreal's Brother Andre as a saint, it took  me back to the big journalistic scoop I had in March 1990, when I told Canadians that Canada would soon have the country's first locally-born Catholic saint. 

I was a Rome-based correspondent working for The Canadian Press, at the time. The late Canadian Cardinal Eduoard Gagnon was also based in Rome, as president of the Vatican's Pontifical Commission for the Family. He had been championing the case of Marguerite d'Youville, the founder of the Grey Nuns religious order.  He told me in an interview on tape, in early March, under embargo, that he had just presented the cardinals with proof of a 1978 medical miracle credited to the Grey Nuns founder.

Gagnon told me the Cardinals had decided it must have been a miracle that allowed a Hull woman, Lise Normand, 29,  to go into remission from leukemia after praying to Blessed Marie Marguerite d'Youville.

But Gagnon told me I couldn't break the story until after the Vatican had given him the go ahead to be quoted. When they did, on March 26, I filed my story. It was front page news in the Montreal Gazette March 27, 1990 and also played in papers across the country.

While there were eight other Canadian Catholic saints, including Rev. Jean de Brebeuf and seven Jesuit martyrs killed by the Iroquois or the Mohawk in the 1640s, and Marguerite Bourgeous, who founded the Congregation of Notre Dame, all were citizens of France.

St. Marguerite d'Youville was the first one born in Canada, in Varennes, Quebec in 1701. Now Brother Andre is the first male saint to be born in Canada.

Like they did for Brother Andre, the Vatican eventually held a special canonization ceremony at St. Peter's Square for Marguerite d'Youville, on December 9, 1990. Here is the Holy See's bio about her here.