Sr. Marie Elisabeth Turgeon Wikimedia Commons

Sr. Turgeon one step closer to sainthood

  • September 24, 2014

Sr. Rita Bérubé never thought she’d live to see the beatification of Sr. Marie Elisabeth Turgeon, but the day is getting closer. 

Pope Francis on Sept. 17 recognized as a miracle a Quebec man’s unexplained cure from terminal cancer, which was attributed to the intercession of Turgeon. In doing so, the Quebec nun, when she is officially beatified at a still to be determined date, will be elevated from “Venerable” to “Blessed,” one step removed from being declared a saint. 

Bérubé, 94, is the vice postulator of Turgeon’s cause for sainthood, a role she has filled for 25 years. She belongs to Turgeon’s order, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, which was founded by Turgeon in Rimouski, Que. 

Turgeon was born in 1840 in Beaumont, Que., and died in 1880. Before her death, she founded the Sisters of the Little Schools (Soeurs des Petites-Écoles) in Rimouski, a teaching order to train teachers and serve remote villages in the province. The order was later named Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (Souers de Notre-Dame du Saint-Rosaire) and currently has 342 sisters in Canada, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the United States. 

In an e-mail that was translated from French by Sr. Ann Adams, Bérubé said the miracle cure involves Michel Boucher, a 38-year-old father of three who in 1991 was diagnosed with a rare, usually incurable cancer and given two months to a year to live by doctors in Rimouski. 

“His reaction and that of his spouse is to fight the verdict and to say, ‘God is with us,’ ” wrote Bérubé. “The nurse who visits him told him that Mother Elisabeth Turgeon needs a miracle to be canonized. He answers, ‘Why not me?’ As soon as he receives a prayer card, he looks at Elisabeth and prays to her with fervour and his family joins him in praying.” 

Boucher’s health improved and he went into “total remission,” Bérubé said, and remains in good health to this day. 

Bérubé said Boucher’s medical dossier “has been studied successfully by the doctors, the theologians, the cardinals and the bishops.” At a 2004 diocesan tribunal, Boucher credited his recovery to “the encouragement of Sr. Elisabeth Turgeon and that of my wife and children.” 

“I always pray to Elisabeth, I speak about her to make her known and to allow her to help others around me,” he said. 

A second miracle will be required to qualify Turgeon as a saint. 

“She’s (Bérubé) very happy about the news,” Adams said. “And every time she shares news with the congregation, all the sisters are all so delighted. And Sr. Rita is quite surprised at how quickly the process is moving because... she’s been at it for so long,” said Adams. 

“What she (Bérubé) finds most inspiring would be the audacity of our foundress, of Mother Elisabeth Turgeon, how daring she was for the time, for the time when she decided to found a congregation.” 

Fr. Germain Lamontagne, 82, is a distant relative of Turgeon. He feels pride to have her in his family. 

“What really characterizes Sr. Elisabeth, surely, is that she was a person at once generous, poor and humble,” said Lamontagne, translated from French by Anastasia Holleman. 

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