Leonie Aviat was born in Sézanne (France) on the 10th September 1844. She was baptized the next day. Very young, she became a boarder at the Visitation of Troyes, which was governed by the Venerable Mother Mary de Sales Chappuis. The chaplain of the monastery, Father Louis Brisson, prepared her for her first Holy Communion that she fervently made on 2nd July 1856.
Leonie became a pupil who was distinguished not only by her natural qualities, but also by an ardent faith and solid piety. She knew at an early age the secret of the abandonment to the Will of God, a secret that the Saviour revealed more intimately through the intervention of the Venerable Mother Mary de Sales Chappuis, who said to her as she left the boarding school: “God knows how to arrange all things. Let him act; put your desires in Him and always do his divine will.” Deeply touched by these words, she would shape her life with an unshakable fidelity.
Leonie deeply desired to become a nun. To study her vocation better, she returned to the Monastery of Troyes to make a retreat under the guidance of the Venerable Mother Chappuis. During this time, she understood that God had chosen her to be the first member of the family that Father Brisson was to established to spread the spirit of St. Francis de Sales in the world through education and child protection.
Oblate Sister of St. Francis de Sales
Leonie immediately replied to this divine call, without considering the uncertainties and the difficulties of this unknown path. From the first moment she gave herself generously to the apostolate that had been confided to her.
The 30th October 1868 she received the habit of the new Congregation of the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales from the hands of Monsignor Mermillod, the Bishop of Geneva and the 11th October 1871 she made her religious profession in the presence of the Monsignor de Segur, who presided the ceremony.
Mother Frances de Sales
Named Mother General of the new-born Congregation, she held the office for six years, and then she was named Superior of the Boarding School in Paris. She was re-elected Mother General in 1893. She governed the Congregation without interruption until her death with a remarkable wisdom and prudence. At the same time she gave the most perfect examples of humility, charity and forgetfulness of herself. Always docile to follow the signs of Providence, by her fidelity to the action of grace, she contributed to the rapid development of the Congregation which extended its branches first in several towns in France by establishing centres for working girls, homes and schools, then in Switzerland, Italy, Austria, England, America, and even in southern Africa, in the Missions of the Orange River.
The religious persecution which hit the Communities in France was a painful ordeal that she accepted with strength and generosity that was characteristic of her.
From Italy, where she was forced into exile, Mother Frances de Sales continued to spread peace in all hearts by her gentleness, and led them to trust in God. Attentive to improve each day according to the spirit of the Congregation, she abandoned herself more and more to the divine will. A short illness in which she supported intense suffering with admirable patience, led her to death’s door. She received the last sacraments with devotion and an ardent faith and returned to God peacefully on the 10th January, 1914 at Perugia (Italy) after having edified all those who knew her by her great virtue and life spent entirely in the exercise of charity towards God and her neighbour.
She was canonized in Rome by Pope John Paul II on 25th November 2001.
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.