Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
September 24, 2001
Foundress to be beatified
Mother Emilie Tavernier Gamelin will be raised to sainthood October 7
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — After 24 years of prayer, research, investigation and documentation, the Sisters of Providence will mark a red-letter day Oct. 7.
Mother Emilie Tavernier Gamelin, the congregation's foundress, will be beatified by Pope John Paul in Rome.
"It's a very exciting time to be part of the community," Sister Carla Montante, provincial leader of the congregation in Western Canada, told the WCR.
"It's a process that unified the community," said Montante, who will go to Rome with 24 other sisters and some lay associates. "The whole process has been a time of prayer," she added.
Montante believes that Gamelin's beatification is a process of letting go of one of their own.
"She is for the world now," Montante said. "Now she is a model and a person that can be looked upon as a light of holiness in response to the need of the poor."
An extraordinary cure that took place in Montreal in 1983 was the decisive edge that merited Gamelin a spot in the ranks of the blessed.
Yannick Fréchette, was 10 years old when he had a craniotomy to remove a growth tissue from his brain. The following year he was stricken with an acute aplastic leukemia. He was treated and was in remission twice but the disease recurred.
Late in September 1983 the boy was given a bone marrow transplant, which his body later rejected. The doctors' prognosis was completely pessimistic.
From the moment that the illness had been diagnosed, the boy's grandmother, along with some relatives, friends and Sisters of Providence, constantly implored divine assistance through Mother Emilie's intercession.
Fréchette himself placed a great deal of hope in the intercessory power of the saintly sister.
In December 1983, during an examination of the bone marrow, it was discovered that the leukemia had not progressed and that the boy was completely cured.
Favours attributed to Gamelin range from health issues, finding the right jobs, and journeying through the pains of separation.
"Mother of the poor, angel of the prisons, providence of the unfortunate," were names given to Gamelin, who was born at the turn of the 19th century, when the Industrial Revolution breathed its promise of prosperity.
With commercial development came worker exploitation, unemployment, political unrest, mass immigration and cholera outbreaks.
These were the conflicts that Gamelin struggled to reconcile in her life as a young girl, as a socialite, as a wife, as a widow and as a Sister of Providence.
Although not affluent, young Gamelin and her family generously responded to the needs of people who were poor. She carried this concern into her marriage to Jean-Baptiste Gamelin, a successful Montreal businessman.
Busy with family and social demands, she still found time to visit the sick and, with her husband, gave freely to the needs of the growing city.
"She responded with a heart of compassion to the needs of her day," Montante noted.
At the age of 28, Gamelin's happy and stable world was shattered as one after the other, her husband and three young sons died.
"She was working on her own grief during the early part of her life in community, but rather than become self-centred, she became other-centred," Montante said.
These painful losses were the beginning of her works of organized charity.
Having spiritually united herself with Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, Gamelin devoted her efforts to improving the poor condition of aged widows, using her own resources to open the House of Providence.
The Ladies of Charities, friends who shared her concerns, joined her in visiting the people in need and collecting funds to support the elderly. Later they opened an orphanage, formed a society to visit the prisoners and cared for the mentally ill.
In 1843, Gamelin and Ignace Bourget, then bishop of Montreal, established the religious community of the Sisters of Providence to ensure that these good works would continue.
One year after the foundation Gamelin made her perpetual profession. But her time in the community would not be long. While caring for the cholera victims, Gamelin succumbed to the same illness in 1851.
"Humility, simplicity, charity," were her last words -— words to guide all who continue her work today.
Trust in the providence of God is what kept this congregation going for centuries, said Montante. "God responds to people who want to help the poor."
"We trust that God will give us the resources and the personnel to help us meet the need of our mission and charism," she said.
Gamelin's enduring legacy lives on in the commitment and ministry of more than 1,200 sisters, who today serve people in Canada, the United States, Chile, Egypt, El Salvador, Cameroon, Argentina, Haiti and the Philippines.
In Western Canada, the sisters operate two hospitals in British Columbia, Father Lacombe Nursing Home in Calgary, and Providence Centre and Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.