Researching the lives of the Canadian Catholic Blesseds has filled me awe at the holy heritage they’ve given Canada. We are used to hearing about the lives of saints such as Anthony of Padua and Therese of Lisieux. But Canada has her own giants of the faith, men and women who worked tirelessly for God and gave their lives to bring His love to those around them. I hope the stories of these Canadian Catholic Blesseds will inspire your faith.
I also hope, in the near future, to see this listen shortened as these men and women are canonized as Canadian Catholic saints!
Blessed Catherine of St. Augustine
Blessed Catherine of St. Augustine offered her life and sufferings for the sake of Canada.
She was born in 1632 in France and raised by her grandparents. Even as a young child, she felt called to holiness. When she was only three, she expressed a desire to do God’s will. When she was five, she had mystical experiences of meeting God in prayer. When she was ten, she wrote a note giving herself to Mary. At age twelve, she joined her older sister in the community of Hôtel-Dieu of Bayeux, directed by Augustinian nuns.
Three years later, Sister Catherine volunteered for the missions in Canada, despite her family’s protests. She made her final vows as a nun in May, at age sixteen, and sailed for New France just a few weeks later. There, she worked at learning the languages of the First Nations and taking care of the sick. The next spring, Father Jean de Brebeuf was martyred by the Iroquois. His example inspired Catherine, and she adopted him as her model.
Sister Catherine lived in Canada for twenty years, from 1648 until her death in 1668. During that time, she served as treasurer, hospital director, and novice director in her community. She continued to experience deep prayer but also inner temptations and health problems. The CCCB notes that “in 1658, she offered herself in a spirit of reparation for the salvation of New France. Therefore, she is considered a co-founder of the Church in Canada.”
She died in 1668 and was immediately recognized as a holy woman. St. Francois de Laval, Quebec’s first bishop, said, “I don’t need to see any extraordinary signs from her to be convinced of her holiness, because her virtues made me perfectly aware of it.” Just three years after her death, Father Paul Rageneau (Jesuit superior of the Huron missions) wrote her biography. She was beatified in 1989. Her feast is celebrated on May 8.
Blessed Catherine of St. Augustine, pray that we may also see the sins of our country and, rather than ignoring them, seek repentance and reparation for them.
Blessed André Grasset
Blessed Andre Grasset was a martyr of the French Revolution who chose death rather than deny his faith.
He was born in Montreal in 1758, the second of five children. His father had been appointed secretary for the governor general of New France. His mother was a rich merchant’s daughter. When Andre was 6, the Treaty of Paris resulted in the fall of New France and his parents returned to France. There, he attended college and then prepared for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1783.
Andre was 31 in 1789 at the start of the French Revolution. The new regime began to persecute Catholics. In 1791, they passed a law called the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. This demanded that the clergy of France deny the pope’s authority and become priests of an independent national church. Instead of signing the Constitution, Father Andre sought refuge with other priests in Paris. He was captured in 1792 and made a prisoner at a Carmelite convent.
On September 2, he and 95 other Catholic clergy were asked if they’d signed the Constitution. Father Andre answered, “No, my conscience forbids me to do so.” He was then thrown into the garden and killed by guards with swords and bayonets.
He and the other Martyrs of September were beautified in 1926. Andre Grasset was the first person born in Canada to be named blessed. His feast is celebrated on September 2.
Blessed Andre, pray that we might also take a stand for what we believe in, rather than give in to cultural or political demands.
Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher
Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher saw the need for educators in her city and founded a religious order to meet that need.
She was born in 1811 in Quebec, Canada, the youngest of ten children. She was educated by the nuns of Notre Dame and then helped her brother, a parish priest. She established the first Canadian parish sodality for young women.
In 1843, the bishop invited her to found a new congregation of women dedicated to Christian education. In obedience, she founded the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. The community flourished under her wise leadership, despite poverty and other difficulties. In six years, she grew her community to four houses of thirty sisters teaching almost four hundred students.
Sister Marie-Rose died in 1849. Ten years later, twelve of the sisters were sent to Oregon. Soon after that, missions were established in Ontario, New York, California, and Manitoba. Between 1931 and 1975, the Sisters started missions in Africa, Japan, South America and Haiti. Today, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary has over 800 vowed members working on 5 continents.
Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher as beatified in 1982. Her feast day is celebrated on October 6.
Blessed Marie-Rose, pray that we may also see the educational needs of those around us, and help them to achieve their educational goals.
Blessed Émilie Tavernier-Gamelin
Blessed Emilie Tavernier-Gamelin faced great tragedy in her life, yet reached out to the poor and needy in her community.
She was born in 1800 in Montreal, the last of fifteen children. Her parents died young and Emilie was raised by an aunt. When she was eighteen, she moved in with her newly widowed brother to help him. He allowed her to set a table by the door for hungry people who came by, which she called “the Table of the King.”
When she was twenty-three, Emilie married Jean-Baptiste Gamelin. Like her, he was a friend to the poor. They were blessed with three children. Then tragedy struck, and Emilie lost all three of her children and her husband. She turned for comfort to Mary, Mother of Sorrows. Then she opened her home to whomever needed assistance, and it becomes known as the House of Providence.
Over the next fifteen years, Emilie continued serving the poor of her community. In 1841, her bishop requested that the Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul send sisters to help her work. When they are unable to come, the bishop asked for volunteers in his diocese. In 1844, Emilie and the first Sisters of Providence took their vows. Mother Emilie continued to encourage and support her community, despite facing conflicts within and epidemics without in the next eight years.
“She had a heart open to every kind of trouble, and she was especially the servant of the poor and the little ones, whom she wished to treat like kings. She remembered that she had received everything from the Lord and she wanted to give without counting the cost. This was the secret of her deep joy, even in adversity.” ~ Pope Saint John Paul II
Emilie Tavernier-Gamelin died from cholera in 1851 and was beatified in 2001. Today the Sisters of Providence are found in Canada, the United States, Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Cameroon, Egypt, the Philippines and Salvador. Her feast day is celebrated on September 23.
Blessed Emilie, pray that we may also open our homes and hearts to those who need our help.
Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin
Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin proposed a revolutionary solution to a problem, then spent her life in persecuted obscurity, serving the community she founded.
She was born in 1809 in Terrebonne, Quebec, the third of twelve children. Like many French Canadians of that time, she and her family were illiterate. At the age of twenty-two, she took a job as a domestic at the Convent of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, which had recently opened nearby. A year later, she started school there herself, then became a novice. However, she had to leave because of poor health.
Despite her health, Marie-Anne must have been a faster learner, for soon after, she began teaching at the parish school. As she taught for the next fifteen years, she came to see why illiteracy was so common. A Church rule stated that girls must be taught by women and boys by men. Most parishes couldn’t afford two schools, so rather than choose to have a boys’ school or a girls’ school, they had none.
in 1848, Marie-Anne approached her bishop with a radical plan. She wanted to form a religious community that would educate girls and boys in the same schools. Because of secular support, the bishop gave his approval. Two years later, the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Anne was founded with Marie-Anne as it’s first superior. The community grew so fast that, three years later, they needed a new home.
For the next twenty-five years, however, Mother Marie-Anne faced persecution and abuse from within her community. The chaplain caused conflict and problems, and the bishop sided with the chaplain. Mother Marie-Anne submitted to the bishop’s orders to step down, despite being repeatedly re-elected as superior by her community. She was relegated to the laundry room, to work as a menial domestic once again. ”
“May Holy Eucharist and perfect abandonment to God’s Will be your heaven on earth.” ~ Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin
She died in 1890. She was beatified in 2001. Her feast is celebrated on April 18.
Blessed Marie-Anne, pray that we may humbly love and forgive those around us as you did, rather than seeking vengeance or recognition.
Blessed Louis-Zéphirin Moreau
Blessed Louis-Zephirin Moreau was a spiritual father to the people of Quebec, fostering growth and community despite his own poor health.
He was born prematurely in 1824 to a farming family in Quebec. He was the fifth in a family of thirteen children, and sickly yet smart. Because of his poor health, his parents felt he’d be unsuited for farm work and sent him to school. A meeting with the archbishop led to his entering seminary. His health continued to affect his studies. Although he was ordained in 1846, he suffered from a lack of theological knowledge.
Most of his years as a priest and bishop were spent in the diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe in Quebec. He served as the secretary to several bishops there before being ordained the fourth bishop there in 1875. He founded the Union Saint-Joseph, a Roman Catholic mutual aid society that provides protection for members and their families from unemployment, accidents, early death, etc. He was known in his diocese for his faith, charity, kindness, piety, firmness, and unworldliness.
He died in 1901 and was beatified in 1987. His feast is celebrated on May 24.
Blessed Louis-Zephirin, pray that we may find ways to serve God to the best of our abilities, despite the difficulties we face in our lives.
Blessed Marie-Léonie Paradis
Blessed Marie-Leonie Paradis devoted her life to giving moral and material support to help priests in the education of young people.
She was born in 1840 in Quebec, the third of six children and the only daughter. Her spiritual life was deeply influenced by a close family friend, Camille Lefebvre. After joining a religious order himself, he told her about the Marianite Sisters of the Holy Cross. She joined this order, which supported the work of priests and male religious, when she was only fourteen. Over the next twenty years, she taught in Quebec, New York and Indiana.
In 1874, she was asked to direct a team of novices and postulants in New Brunswick under Father Lefebvre. She opened a sewing workshop for young women drawn to the religious life. In 1877, fourteen of her young women became religious sisters. In 1880, their new community was recognize by the Holy Cross fathers. They served as domestic staff in diocesan colleges and seminaries.
Until her death in 1912, Mother Marie-Leonie traveled regularly to oversee the work of her order. She wrote extensive letters, offering advice on cooking, menu preparation, gardening and building maintenance as well as spirituality and health. At her death, the Little Sisters of the Holy Family had 38 active houses across Canada and the United States.
Mother Marie-Léonie’s faith meant that she saw and served Christ in the person of the priest. ~ “A Spirit of Service“
She was beatified on September 11, 1984 in Montréal. Her feast is celebrated on May 4.
Blessed Marie-Leonie, pray that we may also see Christ in our priests and seek to meet their material needs as you did.
Blessed Frédéric Janssoone
Blessed Frederic Janssoone initiated a spiritual renewal in Canada based on meditation on the suffering and passion of Christ.
He was born in in France in 1838, the youngest of eight children. His father died when Frederic was only 9. As a teen, Frederic had to leave school to support his mother. He worked as an errand boy and then a traveling salesman. After his mother died in 1861, he completed his studies and then joined the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor. He was ordained a priest in 1870.
Father Frederic served as a military chaplain, assistant novice director, librarian, and superior. In 1876, he traveled to the Holy Land and spent the next five years there. He promoted pilgrimages to the Holy Land, oversaw construction of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and reestablished the tradition of the Way of the Cross in the streets of Jerusalem. His work there required great diplomacy and tact to avoid conflict with the Ottomans and diverse religious groups, yet Father Frederic helped establish peace.
In 1881, Father Frederic traveled to Canada to raise money for the Holy Land. He preached retreats throughout Canada and established the collection for the Holy Land which is still taken in churches across Canada on Good Friday. Seven years later, he returned to settle permanently in Trois-Rivières (a town well-known to the North American martyrs). There, he helped organize and develop the pilgrimage of Our Lady of the Rosary and created three outdoor Ways of the Cross. He promoted the Franciscan Third Order in Quebec and New England, preached many more retreats, and wrote prolifically about the Holy Land, the Holy Family, Saint Anne and other Franciscans.
Father Frederic Janssoone died of stomach cancer in 1916. He was beatified in 1988. His feast is celebrated on August 5.
The sole objective of all his efforts during the 28 years he spent in the country was to win for God and for Christ the Canadians whom he loved so dearly, and to enhance their spiritual lives as much as possible. ~ Constantin-M. Baillargeon
Blessed Frederic, pray that we may meditate on the life and passion of Jesus as you did, and share that with those around us.
Blessed Dina Bélanger
Blessed Dina Belanger pursued her own talents while also giving herself entirely to God’s will for her life.
She was born in 1897in Quebec City and grew up an only child. She went to school under the sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. In her late teens, she developed a personal rule of life based on prayer, Mass, the rosary, and mediation, though she told no one. She also helped her mother with her church’s outreach to the poor and sick, and made altar cloths and vestments for poor parishes and missions.
Dina took piano lessons at home, and then spent two years in New York studying advanced piano and harmony. Back home, she gave concerts and later said, “I wanted to find the God-given talents within me.” She was passionate about art and beauty and aimed for perfection, brushing off any praise.
At the age of twenty-four, she joined the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Sillery. When she made her first vows, she took the religious name Marie Saint Cecilia of Rome, after the patron saint of music. She was appointed a music teacher at the convent, but struggled with ill health.
Like St. Marie of the Incarnation and Blessed Catherine of St. Augustine, Dina had a deeply intimate prayer life. Her superior asked her to keep a journal of her experiences. She was greatly influenced by the life of St. Therese of Lisieux, and these two young saintly women have much in common. Like St. Therese, Blessed Dina died at a young age of tuberculosis.
She died in 1929 and was beatified in 1993. Her feast day is celebrated on September 4.
Blessed Dina, pray that we may also develop the talents that God has given us, so that we may give those talents back to Him and use them for His glory.
Blessed Bishop Nykyta Budka
Blessed Nykyta Budka was the first Ukrainian Catholic bishop in Canada and worked tirelessly to help his parishioners live and flourish in their new land.
He was born in Dobromirka in Austria-Hungary (now Ukraine) in 1877. His father was well educated (unusual at that time), and Nykyta also did well in school and finished high school with honours. He was ordained in Lviv in 1905 and just seven years later was consecrated bishop for Ukrainian Catholic immigrants to Canada. He arrived in Canada (his new diocese!) in 1912 via the Empress of Britain (the same ship that brought my great-grandmother to Canada in 1920!).
For the next fifteen years, Father Budka traveled across Canada, supporting his parishes. He founded schools, trained catechists, ordained priests, and encouraged further immigration from the Ukraine. He also insisted that all schools be bi-lingual, thus encouraging his parishes to be loyal Canadians. Under his guidance, the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada grew from 25 parishes to 170. He also faced financial difficulty and conflict with his community.
By 1927, however, the good bishop was tired and ill. He returned to the Ukraine and spent the next eighteen years serving in Lviv. He lived through the Russian occupation in 1939 and then the Nazi occupation in 1941. In 1945, many Ukrainian Catholic leaders were arrested. Bishop Budka was taken to a Siberian prison camp. There, despite his own illness, he continued to serve as a priest to those around him. He died in a prison hospital in Kazakhstan in 1949.
Father Nykyta Budka was beatified in 2001 in Ukraine. His feast day is September 28.
Blessed Nykyta, pray that we may be loyal to both our faith and our country, and treasure the freedom and life we possess here in Canada.
Blessed Bishop Vasyl Velychkovsky
Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky spent years in prison for his faith, yet used that as an opportunity to pray for, counsel, and bring God to those around him.
He was born in 1903. Many of his family members were priests or religious. He was homeschooled. At age 15, he joined the Ukrainian Galician Army to fight for the indepdence of Ukraine during World War I. Then he entered the seminary in Lviv. A few years later, he joined the Redemptorists and was ordained a priest in 1925. He preached missions throughout Ukraine and promoted devotion to Mary, especially as Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
From 1939 to 1945, Father Vasyl faced persecution and difficulty from the Soviets and Germans, who had invaded Ukraine during World War II. In 1945, he was arrested and sent to a prison in Kyiv. He spent a year there before being sentenced to death, and spent another three months on death row before his sentence was changed to ten years of hard labour. During that time, he catechized his fellow prisoners and celebrated the Divine Liturgy with whatever vessels he could find.
In 1955, he was released and returned to Lviv. Here, he supported the underground Ukrainian Catholic Church. Eight years later, he was secretly ordained a bishop. Then, while the Metropolitan (church leader) went to attend the Second Vatican Council, Father Vasyl was appointed to be in charge of the underground church until the Metropolitan’s return. Then in 1969, he was again arrested, after writing a book on Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
Father Vasyl spent the next three years in psychiatric hospital. When he was released, suffering from both mental and physical health problems, he was exiled from Ukraine. He went to Rome and then was invited by a fellow Redemptorist to come to Winnipeg. Here, Father Vasyl led clergy retreats, but died less than year later at the age of 70.
He was beatified in 2001. He is the patron of prison ministry.
Blessed Vasyl, pray that we may also remember those who are in prison, and reach out to them with comfort and the hope You bring.
Blessed Elisabeth Turgeon
Blessed Elisabeth Turgeon was obedient to God’s call to be a teacher, despite her own poor health and pain.
Elisabeth was born in 1870 in Quebe, the fifth of eight children. She was a gifted student but had to leave school at age 15 when her father died. For the next five years, she helped her mother with her younger siblings. Then she went to teacher’s college and obtained her diploma with distinction. She then became principal of a nearby school, but ill health forced her to give up teaching.
Turning to St. Anne, Elisabeth promised to teach for free at Saint-Anne-de-Beaupre if she were healed. Her bishop requested she direct a community of teachers being formed. She excused herself because of her poor health. Ater he repeated his request three times, she felt this must be God’s call for her.
In 1875, Elisabeth, her sister Louise, and several other young women arrived in Rimouski. Elisabeth’s job was to train the teachers to fill the needs of children in the surrounding schools. In 1879, the young women took their vows as religious. Elisabeth became the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. She was known for her love, for accepting and forgiving everyone, and serving sweetly, despite continued ill health.
She died in 1881 and was canonized in 2015. Her feast day is celebrated on August 17. Sunshine dressed up as Blessed Elisabeth Turgeon this year for our Canadian Catholic All Saints’ Day Party.
Blessed Elisabeth, pray that we may seek to know and accomplish God’s will in our lives.
Kids’ Activities for the Canadian Catholic Blesseds
Our First Bishop is 28-page printable about Blessed Nykyta Budka, which includes a detailed kid-friendly biography, pictures, activities, and more.
CCCB has catechetical resources in French and English for the Canadian Catholic saints and blesseds, which include a biography, discussion points, and one-page activity for kids.
Subscribe to my weekly email newsletter to download a FREE printable Canadian Catholic Saints & Blesseds Kids Activities Pack, which includes 8 Bingo cards with all 30 Canadian saints’ and blesseds’ names, crossword puzzles and word searches, saint matching and sorting games, and a saint profile sheet.