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St Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
Father Louis Brisson (1817—1908) soon beatified
Sister Leonie Frances de Sales Aviat (1844 –1914)
Birth of the Congregation in France
Spreading from France to South Africa
What does our History mean to us Today?
Sister Leonie Frances de Sales Aviat (1844 –1914)

Her life

Leonie Aviat, former student of the Visitation of Holy Mary Boarding School in Troyes, seemed to be the “cornerstone” Father Brisson needed! At the age of 21 and without a backward glance, this young lady from Sezanne (France), threw herself wholeheartedly into a double adventure: the direction of the “Oeuvres Ouvrières” and the founding of a new Congregation that, in the midst of its apostolic activities, would live the spirituality which Saint Francis de Sales gave to his Sisters of the Visitation.

On October 30th, 1868, Leonie Aviat received the habit of the new Congregation and the name of “Sister Frances de Sales”. This new name was a sign that her life’s work would be directed towards and guided by Salesian spirituality.

text-AviatIn 1872 she was appointed the first General Superior of the Institute and remained in this position until her death. Mother Frances de Sales guided her Sisters through the religious Persecution in France, and developed the works of the Congregation in Europe, South–America and Southern Africa.

On January 10, 1914, she died in Perugia. To her last breath, she remained faithful to the resolution she had taken at the time of her profession on October 11, 1872: “To forget myself entirely.”

To her daughters she left for all time the very Salesian precept: “LET US WORK FOR THE HAPPINESS OF OTHERS.”

A miracle in South Africa

text-aviat-miracleThe Oblate Sisters opened a Mission Station in January 1976 in Ocean View, Cape Town.  After Mass one evening, a parishioner waited outside with a cancer stricken boy, Vincent Kesner.  Mother and son were sad and it was with a soft grieved voice that she explained that her son was very sick. The doctor had informed them that he could not help Vincent to cure.  The Sisters promised to pray to Our Foundress, Mother Leonie Frances de Sales. Through her intercession, Vincent’s healing would be asked from God.

The Sisters and the family began a novena in the convent chapel. During the novena,  Vincent, surprised and overwhelmed, exclaimed: ”Mamma, I feel no more pain. I think the Sisters prayers are helping!”  In a week they were to see the doctor for a possible operation but he was completely baffled! “What did you do? What happened?” Vincent answered: “The Sisters prayed!”  “Vincent, it is a miracle! You will not have to have an operation!” the doctor exclaimed.

This miracle was to open the process for the Beatification of Mother Frances de Sales which took place in Rome, St Peter Square, on the 27th September 1992.

9 years later, God healed a young American girl, Bernadette McKenzie, through the intercession of Mother Leonie Francis de Sales Aviat. This second miracle allowed  His Holiness Pope John Paul II  to canonize her on November 25th, 2001.

Prayer to Saint Leonie Francis de Sales

God of all goodness, You put into the heart of Saint Leonie Aviat
an ardent desire to live humbly like Jesus Your Son.
You taught her to surrender her will to Yours and to have a constant charity toward all.
Inspired by her example, may we too forget ourselves entirely
So that we may serve you better and work for the happiness of others.
Grant us, through her intercession, the grace we ask of You through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.