The declaration of Venerability is the first major step in the canonization process. The candidate--referred to as "The Servant of God"--is recognized as having lived a saintly life of heroic virtues, and that her manner of living the Gospel values is worthy of imitation. This step follows a long and exhaustive process of historical research and study by historians and theologians.
Mother Gamelin was named Venerable on December 23, 1993, when Pope John Paul II approved the Decree of Venerability: "...the Holy Father has solemnly proclaimed today that the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity both toward God and one's neighbor, as well as the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Strength with their connected virtues were practiced to a heroic degree by the Servant of God Emilie Tavernier, widow Gamelin, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence" (complete text below).
The panel of theologians who studied Mother Gamelin's virtues noted: "Her love for the poorest and the most abandoned is not simply a humanitarian gesture. It is a Christian service which links the desire to carry Christ to all those who suffer with the longing to relieve the pain, whether physical or moral...The service of those in need was the distinctive mark, the standard of her life. Two words can sum up her work: charity and generosity. Her life is impressive by its simplicity and its coherence with the pursuit of the ideal." (Theologian's Report on the Heroic Virtues of Emilie Gamelin, 1993, excerpted in Missive, March 1994)
Following is the complete text of the Decree of Venerability, issued December 23, 1993, beginning with a résumé of Mother Gamelin's life.
Congregation for the
Causes of Saints
Beatification of the Servant of God
Émilie Tavernier, Widow Gamelin
of the Congregation of
the Sisters of Providence
IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH BEYOND ANY DOUBT
Whether the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity both toward God and one's neighbor, as well as the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Strength with their connected virtues were practiced to a heroic degree by the Servant of God Emilie Tavernier, widow Gamelin, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence.
"The Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan (Cf. John 19:25), enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her." (Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, 58)
As she was contemplating the picture of Our Lady of Sorrows, standing by the Cross and spiritually united with Her Son's sufferings, the Servant of God Emilie Tavernier, widow Gamelin understood that God was calling her to dedicate her life to loving and serving Christ's suffering members. Therefore she left everything and, until the day of her death, served the poor, the sick and the elderly with the utmost energy, perseverance and spirit of sacrifice, thus giving to everyone a splendid example of fidelity to the Gospel and of christian dedication to one's needy neighbor.
Born on February 19, 1800, in Montreal, Canada, the Servant of God was the youngest of Antoine Tavernier's and Josephte Maurice's 15 children; her parents formed a fervent couple but were soon to depart this world. Little Emilie was entrusted to relatives and educated by the sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. Early on, people took notice of her serious, even, and docile disposition and of her caring about the poor and the sick. In 1823, she married Jean-Baptiste Gamelin and they had three sons. But just a few years later she became a widow and lost her three children. Left alone, she did not withdraw into herself, and so Providence chose her to radiate Christ's charity in the society of her time and to become the cornerstone of a new religious family.
One day, in front of the picture of Our Lady of Sorrows, driven by the love of God, she decided to dedicate herself to the service of the poor and the sick. She declined to remarry and joined various charitable associations. In 1828, she welcomed aged and infirm women into her own home. During the cholera epidemic of 1832 and the civil war of 1837-1838, she was very active combining charity with great organizational skills. Such generosity aroused respect and admiration, but also slander and malevolent interpretation. Relying on Providence and Our Lady of Sorrows, undaunted by difficulties or hardships, faithful to the will of God, she carried out her heavenly entrusted task with the help of a few women who were sharing her views.
An obedient daughter of the Church, she followed the instructions of her superiors and, when the bishop of Montreal decided to ask the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul to take charge of the work that she herself had launched, the Servant of God humbly accepted the idea and even supported it. The plan however was not to materialize, a the Daughters of Charity had to withdraw. So the bishop founded a new religious organization and decided to set up the novitiate in Emilie's house, even though she herself was not one of the seven novices. A stranger under her own roof, she was divested of all authority and even treated as an inferior, but she shared the life and religious exercises of the novices.
In 1843, one of the novices left the community. The Servant of God looked up it as a sign from God calling her to take the place left vacant. After consulting with the bishop and her confessor, she requested to enter the novitiate and was accepted. The following year, she made her religious profession together with the others and, on the next day, was elected the first superior of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity, known nowadays as the Sisters of Providence and of which she is rightly regarded as the foundress. She led the new institute with caution and conscientiousness and it expanded rapidly, opening new houses for the orphans, the elderly ladies, the aged and infirm priests, the mentally ill, the deaf-mute and other needy persons. Wherever there were distressed people, the Servant of God and her Sisters endeavored to bring them the comfort of their charity. They were also involved in the education of girls.
All these works benefited from the sacrifices of the Servant of God, whose life has been deemed a genuine way of the Cross. She met with serious trials both inside and outside the Congregation. Steadfast in her vocation and faithful to her mission, Emilie was bearing everything with magnanimity, patience and humility. Following in the footsteps of Christ and Our Lady of Sorrows, she gave up her own will and her preferences, and accepted wholeheartedly the counsels of the Gospel and the instruction from the Church leadership. God's will was the supreme rule of her life and action, and she never attempted to evade it, even in the most trying and painful situations.
An authentic witness of Christ, she proclaimed his message through the quality of her works and the holiness of her life. To affirm Christ's presence in the midst of the poor, to heal them and comfort their pain,so that they would feel loved by God and the Church, such was the meaning of her tireless apostolate. Thus she worked efficiently at building the Reign of Christ and contributed to the growth of the Church in Canada. With perseverance and spiritual joy she trained herself constantly in the practice of Christian virtues, and reach a high degree of perfection. She was outstanding by the firmness of her faith, the strength of her hope, the intensity of her love for God and her neighbor, her serenity in confronting difficulties, her love of poverty and humility, her readiness to obey, her spirit of prayer and sacrifice, her devotion to the holy Eucharist, to the Passion of Our Lord, to the Blessed Virgin, to Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.
Until the end of her life, she walked along with God and when death came, on September 23, 1851, she entered eternity with her lamp burning. Her last words were an advice for her sisters: "Humility, simplicity, charity, above all charity."
The memory of her outstanding virtues has remained lively within her congregation, as well as among the clergy and the population of Canada. Alongside this reputation of holiness one hears of miracles. In 1980, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, in accordance with the decree "Sanctitas Clarior," authorized the opening of the cause. The trial was held in Montreal, in 1893, and its validity was confirmed by decree in 1984. On May 29, 1990, the cause was approved by the historical consultants and, on April 27, 1993, by a special meeting of the theological Consultants. On October 19, the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation, in a regular meeting, after listening to His Eminence cardinal Edouard Gagnon who presented the merits of the cause, affirmed solemnly the heroic character of Mother Emilie Tavernier's theological, cardinal and connected virtues.
The Cardinal Prefect related these facts to the Holy Father; Pope John Paul II received and validated the Congregation's votum and issued a decree affirming the heroic nature of the Servant of God's virtues.
Then in the presence of the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation, of the Cardinal ponens, of the Secretary of the Congregation and of several other persons, the Holy Father has solemnly proclaimed today that the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity both toward God and one's neighbor, as well as the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Strength with their connected virtues were practiced to a heroic degree by the Servant of God, Émilie Tavernier, widow Gamelin, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence.
He then ordered that the decree be made public and included in the Records of the Congregation for the causes of the Saints.
Given in Rome, on December 23, 1993.
Angelo Card. Felici
Titular Archbishop of Luni