Sisters of the Assumption worldwide will gather in Rome this coming Sunday, 3 June, to hear their foundress proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XVI.
Marie Eugenie Milleret de Brou, born into an intellectual but non-believing family in the France of 1817, was 'converted' in her teens by the preaching of Henri Lacordaire OP.
At 22, she founded the Religious of the Assumption, combining a life of contemplation with the education of women, a cause in which she passionately believed Sr Marie Eugenie of Jesus sent her first sisters to England: Richmond, north Yorkshire, in 1850.
After this, she was besieged by requests for more sisters, more schools, in Europe and abroad. Foundations in the far off Philippines, Nicaragua and El Salvador were before the end of the 19th century.
The gift of a great miracle was the healing of a little girl in the Philippines in the 1990s. In her first year, little Risa Bontoc was found to have a malformation of the brain.
The left hemisphere was deficient and there was no connection between the two hemispheres of Risa's brain. The prognosis was that she would never walk, talk or see: "only a miracle," said one of the specialists, "would make her function normally."
The faith and hope of the Bontoc family, their love for the baby, led them to Paris where baby Risa was laid on top of the tomb of Blessed Marie Eugenie.
The family and the sisters prayed for a cure through Marie Eugenie's intercession.
By the time Risa was four, the American paediatric neurologist following her case reported that "her present capabilities are truly exceptional." And now? Risa is just 12 and a keen student in Assumption College, San Lorenzo.
Her report reads: "Her language development corresponds to the level of her peers. She continues to show a high level of social skills and an intellectual aptitude that corresponds to her age."
It will be Risa who, at the canonisation, will give the Pope the customary 'present' a school for needy children. Marie Eugenie's intense interest in all aspects of human development is expressed in thousands of papers: she loved writing letters.
She communicated her thought to her sisters who, over the years, have passed it on to students, colleagues and friends: "In education, a philosophy, a character, a passion. But what passion? That of faith, of love, of the fulfilment of the Gospel."
Both "philosophy" and "passion" describe her well. Passionate in her personal love of Jesus Christ, carried to adoration by the mystery of the Being of God, Marie Eugenie dedicated her considerable intellectual powers to spreading the Good News in ways adapted to an ever-changing world without compromising the essentials.
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