St. Emily de Vialar, patron of single women
Today, June 17, we honor St. Emily de Vialar, Virgin, Foundress of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. She is the patron of single women.
Anne Marguerite Adelaide Emily de Vialar was born on September 12, 1797 at Gaillac in southern France to a noble family. She was the oldest of three children and the only daughter of Baron James Augustine de Vialar and his wife Antoinette. At thirteen, she was sent to the boarding convent of Abbaye-au-Bois in Paris, but returned home two years later. Her mother had died and she was needed to perform the housekeeping duties for the family. Differences arose between Emily and her father when she refused a marriage proposal. She had made a private vow to consecrate her life to God as a virgin. Emily had a vision of our Lord pointing to the wounds of His passion, which moved her deeply and strongly influenced her vocation. In an attempt to repair the harm done by the French Revolution, Emily catechized the children of Gaillac, a ministry which she performed for fifteen years. When she and her brothers inherited their maternal grandfather’s large fortune in 1832, she decided to leave her father’s house.
She moved to a large house in Gaillac, with three other women who were also interested in educating children and serving the sick and the poor. Soon several others joined them and three months later, the archbishop authorized the Abbe to clothe twelve postulants with the religious habit. Twenty-six women took religious vows in 1835. They called themselves the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition, and they performed works of charity, in particular the instruction of children and the care of the sick at home, in hospitals and in prisons. In December of 1835, the Constitutions drafted by Mother Emily were approved.
Mother Emily traveled extensively, sending missionaries anywhere that would accept them. This put a heavy strain on her inheritance, which had been mismanaged by her financial advisor. By 1851, she was bankrupt. Due to the financial difficulties, the reputation the Order suffered. The Sisters were so poor that they sometimes ate in soup kitchens run by other congregations. Mother Emily finally moved them all, establishing the mother-house in Marseilles, France where, with the help of the bishop, Saint Eugene de Mazenod, she began to build up her congregation again.
When Mother Emily died on August 24, 1856, she had already established forty-two foundations of her Order, not only in Western and Eastern Europe and Africa, but in the Middle East, the Far East, and Australia. Four years after her death, her body was found to be incorrupt. St. Emily de Vialar was beatified in 1939 and canonized in 1951, by Pope Pius XII.
“The Lord causes to burn within me that same fire which He enkindled long ago, and I rejoice in this grace, for if God did not breathe into me the spirit of zeal, my heart would cease to be quickened and then I would not be able to do anything. May He, in His goodness, grant that as long as I live this divine fire may not be extinguished.”
“Love of God is service to the poor.”
“Let us have no other wish than to work for God’s glory.”
“Since God does so much for me, what could I not do for him?”
— St. Emily de Vialar