Vatican panel to study alleged miracle

By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald

The Diocese of Little Rock (Arkansas) has submitted formal documentation to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome regarding an “alleged miraculous healing” of a college student from a serious medical condition, which the Vatican panel may review as part of the beatification cause of Venerable Henriette Delille, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family in pre-Civil War New Orleans.

No decision has been made regarding the nature of the healing of college student Christine McGee from an aneurism, said Sister of the Holy Family Doris Goudeaux, co-director of the Henriette Delille Commission Office, but the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has affirmed that the Little Rock Diocese met all of the standards it requires for collecting testimony regarding an alleged miraculous healing.

“It has issued a decree of juridical validity for the inquiry that was done in Little Rock,” Sister Doris said. “This is not approval of a miraculous healing itself but states that the inquiry carried out to study it was done correctly, and so the case can continue forward.”

The decree was signed on Dec. 7, 2018.

Cause began in 1988

Venerable Henriette founded the Sisters of the Holy Family, a congregation of African-American women religious, in 1842 to educate and care for slaves and the elderly at a time when educating African-Americans was prohibited by law. Her cause for sainthood was opened by Archbishop Philip Hannan in 1988 and was unanimously endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1997.

After Mother Henriette was declared “venerable” for her “heroic virtues” by Pope Benedict on March 27, 2010, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints affirmed the pope’s actions on June 22, 2010, and she received the title of “Servant of God.”

One miracle through her intercession is needed for Venerable Henriette to be beatified, and a second would be needed for her canonization.

The congregation was investigating in 2005 a possible miraculous healing of a 5-year-old child but did not reach a definitive conclusion. This new alleged miracle would need to be reviewed by the same congregation.

Sister Doris said there are limits on what can be said publicly about the Little Rock student.

“I can tell you she was very, very sick, and the doctors said she was going to die,” Sister Doris said. “Her mother had a devotion to Henriette, and from the time she heard about her daughter’s condition, she was praying to Henriette Delille. She called someone who called the motherhouse. They asked for prayers. The mother gives credit to the intercession of Henriette.”

Dr. Andrea Ambrosi of Rome is the “postulator” of Venerable Henriette’s cause, responsible for writing the technical “positio” describing in detail the alleged miraculous healing. It is that report that will be reviewed by the congregation’s theologians and physicians.

Sister of the Holy Family Sylvia Thibodeaux and Dr. Virginia Gould, a historian who has helped the sisters with the beatification cause, visited Little Rock Bishop Anthony Taylor several weeks ago. Bishop Taylor was heavily involved in the beatification cause of Blessed Father Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma priest who was martyred while on mission in Guatemala in 1981.

“Bishop Taylor is very familiar with the process, and he also is very familiar with Dr. Ambrosi, who was also the postulator for Father Rother,” Gould said.

The Sisters of the Holy Family have been promoting Venerable Henriette’s cause for beatification with a regular newsletter, brochures and prayer cards, and they are planning a documentary of her life.

“We remain forever hopeful,” Sister Sylvia said. “Every little sign of progress gives us hope.”

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarionherald.org.

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