CHILDS, Md. – The namesake of Mount Aviat School is a saint, and “we can pray for her intercession and guidance,” Oblate Sister Joseph Margaret Kimura told the 250 students at a service Jan. 13 marking the 100th anniversary of the French nun’s death.
The legacy of St. Leonie Aviat is physical and spiritual, said Oblate Sister Audrey Frances Moran. She established an order of sisters who educate students all over the world, including at Mount Aviat. The Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales also minister in parishes, such as St. Paul’s in Delaware City, and at DeSales University, and that is just in this area. Spiritually, she was an example of personal holiness, Sister Audrey said, “a beacon of hope for our world.
“And so her spirit lives on in her daughters,” she continued, and those who come into contact with them.
The principal, Oblate Sister John Elizabeth Callaghan, explained the process by which Mother Leonie became a saint. She said to be considered for sainthood, a person must have two miracles attributed to his or her intercession. The second of St. Leonie’s miracles happened to a girl named Bernadette, a student at St. Bernadette School in Drexel Hill, Pa., that was administered by the Oblate Sisters.
Bernadette had a spinal condition that kept her out of school. The sisters and her parents started a novena, nine days of prayer. Bernadette began to feel better on the second day of the novena.
“By the time her mom got home, she said, ‘I feel better,’” Sister John Elizabeth said. “(Her parents) were saying, ‘We think this is a miracle.’”
With no medical explanation, and after rigorous study at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II declared Bernadette’s healing to be the second miracle that came through Mother Aviat’s intercession, and she was made a saint in 2001.
To mark the occasion, St. Bernadette Parish had a life-sized statue made of St. Leonie with Bernadette. Mount Aviat has a smaller version on its campus, as well as a reliquary with small segments of St. Leonie’s hair, a “first-class” relic, as Sister John Elizabeth told the students. Most of the time, the reliquary is kept in the convent, but on this day the students were able to see it.
But the history, the relic and the art “is not worth it unless you take something out that door,” she said.
Mount Aviat students said messages such as the one delivered by Sister John Elizabeth are a given at the school.
“They teach us to treat others like we would like to be treated, and to work for the happiness of others, which is Mother Aviat’s quote,” said eighth-grader Theresa Keefe. St. Leonie “is a great inspiration to us, and they teach us all about her.”
Seventh-grade student Lauren Mottel agreed. “They always tell us to ‘Live Jesus,’ to be kind every day and always help when it’s a time of need for anybody. I think it’s nice to help people. It makes me feel better.”
Max Classen, an eighth-grader, said the Oblate Sisters model St. Leonie and are always there to help the students. “That’s how they want us to treat others.”