The sainthood cause for Montreal laywoman Jeanne Le Ber was opened in late October.

Sainthood cause opened for Montreal laywoman

By  Laura Ieraci, Catholic News Service
  • November 19, 2015

MONTREAL - Calling her a star in a “constellation of holiness,” Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine has opened the cause for sainthood of a 17th-century Montreal laywoman.

The Archdiocese of Montreal officially opened the cause for Jeanne Le Ber Oct. 28, and interviews began Nov. 12 seeking testimony on the authenticity of Le Ber’s writings, as well as on her heroic virtues and her reputation for sainthood.

Le Ber’s postulator, Sr. Monique Tremblay, CND, said Le Ber witnesses that “the profound meaning of life is to know that one is loved by God and to discover His continual presence in their lives.” Young people in search of meaning are attracted to Le Ber, as well as people who are alone, who discover new meaning in their solitude, said Tremblay.

Jeanne Le Ber was born in 1662 to two of the first French settlers in Montreal, then-called Ville Marie. Her godparents were the founders of the colony, Jeanne Mance and Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve. At a young age, Le Ber felt the call to the contemplative life of a recluse.

A student of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, who founded the Congregation of Notre Dame, Le Ber was counselled by a Sulpician to live her vocation as a laywoman, maintaining and administering her inheritance for the benefit of the fledgling colony. Once a recluse, she helped St. Marguerite by funding schools and paid for the education of poor children.

Le Ber’s life consisted mostly of prayer, Eucharist and adoration. She also embroidered intricate liturgical vestments, some of which are on exhibit at Montreal’s Maison Saint-Gabriel, operated by the CND sisters.

Though a laywoman, her spirituality inspired the foundation of a women’s monastery in 1943. The Recluse Sisters, whose monastery is located in Montreal’s East End, model their cloistered lives on Le Ber.

Le Ber’s spirituality is described as the “spirituality of the two windows” — one through which she received her food, news of the growing colony and prayer petitions from the colonists, and the other through which she could gaze upon the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel, adjacent to her cell.

Le Ber died in 1714, and her remains, which were thought to be lost, were only found on property belonging to the CND sisters in 1991. In 2001, the CNDs decided to begin promoting her cause. By 2005, the CNDs moved her remains to their chapel in Old Montreal, Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, where St. Marguerite Bourgeoys is also buried.

Sr. Louise Lemieux of the Recluse Sisters said the official opening of the cause elicited “feelings of great joy, pride and thanksgiving to God” among the sisters. Since their monastery’s founding, the community “never ceased praying and inviting people to ask for the intercession of Jeanne Le Ber,” said Lemieux.

Lépine celebrated a Liturgy of the Word at the Sacred Heart Chapel of Notre-Dame Basilica to officially open the cause. In his homily, he said Le Ber had “a pure thirst for God,” which leads people even today to reflect on whether they place God first in their own lives.

Le Ber’s example of holiness is important, he said, because it points to the Eucharist and to perseverance in faith.

“Holiness happens in constellations,” said Lépine, reflecting on the historic period in which Le Ber lived, marked by the zeal to evangelize the New World.

“Let us turn to God,” he told the 90 people gathered, “so that this star, part of a constellation of holiness present at the foundation of Montreal, may be more widely known and may shine for Montreal today.”

A biography of Le Ber is being compiled, which along with the testimonies will be submitted to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in a positio. Tremblay said the whole process is expected to take several months, which is rather quick compared with the nearly 300 years it took to get to this point.

“Many sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame have been hoping for this day for a long time,” said Tremblay. “It is therefore a great joy.”

(Ieraci is a freelance writer in Montreal.)

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