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Is it a miracle? Diocese gathers facts in alleged healing

Alleged healing of Arkansas student could move cause for Sister Henriette Delille

Published: August 29, 2019      
Courtesy Sisters of the Holy Family
Mother Henriette Delille, who founded the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans in 1842, is seen in this restored photo taken around 1850. The Diocese of Little Rock submitted formal documentation from a fact-finding mission regarding an alleged miracle, a healing through the intercession of Mother Henriette of a 19-year-old Arkansas college student in 2008.

For what could be the first time in the 176-year history of the Diocese of Little Rock, a diocesan tribunal submitted formal documentation to the Vatican on an alleged healing miracle of a former Arkansas college student.

“We served as a fact-finding gathering source for the Holy See,” said Father Greg Luyet, JCL, judicial vicar of the diocese, who oversaw all canonical procedures of those involved.

The documentation prepared for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome is one possible step for the beatification cause for Venerable Henriette Delille, who founded the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans. She was declared venerable for “heroic virtues” nine years ago, according to an Aug. 15 article in the Clarion Herald, the official publication of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. If her canonization cause continues, she could be the first black saint from the U.S.


What happened

Christine McGee was a 19-year-old college student when the alleged healing happened in Little Rock, said Sister Doris Goudeaux, co-director of the Henriette Delille Commission Office.

In December 2007, McGee was hospitalized for an aneurism. Sister Doris said her mother was told “she was very sick and they should try to get to the hospital as soon as they could … it looked like she was going to die.”

“Her mother said she had been devoted or was devoted to Henriette Delille. From the time she learned about her sickness, she started to pray and prayed to Henriette the whole time. Even though it seemed like things weren’t going to work, she held onto that belief,” Sister Doris said.

The doctors said McGee was “still unresponsive in a coma” even when things started to look better, Sister Doris said. While things did get worse before they were better, McGee was released in January 2008. She endured physical therapy but, “she got her master’s degree from Loyola (University in New Orleans) this past summer” and is able to drive and take care of herself, Sister Doris said she was told.

The sisters were first informed about the alleged miracle in 2014 by McGee’s mother. Sister Doris said the story was published in the order’s newsletter and officials in Rome saw it. The order then started the official process.

Sister Doris also said she had limits on what details she could share regarding the case, but stated the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has issued “a decree of juridical validity,” signed Dec. 7, 2018, confirming the Diocese of Little Rock met the standards for collecting the required facts within their documentation. No contact information for McGee was shared with Arkansas Catholic, but Sister Doris said she doesn’t live in Arkansas any longer.

Citing norms issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to maintain secrecy of the process, including the questions asked and those who participated, in order to protect the integrity of the process, Father Luyet said he was not able to discuss anything about the alleged miracle or individuals involved.


Diocese’s role

Dr. Andrea Ambrosi of Rome, the postulator of Venerable Henriette’s cause, according to the Archdiocese of New Orleans article, received word from the Holy Family sisters regarding the alleged miracle. The Diocese of Little Rock then received a formal request to embark on a fact-finding mission, as the alleged miracle occurred in Arkansas.

“An advocate in Rome came to the U.S. and asked our bishop if he’d consider opening an investigation here in the Diocese of Little Rock” and Bishop Anthony B. Taylor said yes, Father Luyet said. Before the bishop came to Arkansas in 2008, he was the first episcopal delegate for the canonization cause for Father Stanley Rother in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. On Sept. 23, 2017, Blessed Stanley Rother was the first U.S.-born priest to be beatified.

Father Luyet said the diocese opened the fact-finding case regarding the alleged miracle through the intercession of Venerable Henriette in 2015 and finished in May 2018.

The tribunal of miracles, which was named by Bishop Taylor, included the bishop; an episcopal delegate, a person who represents the bishop; a notary; medical expert; and a promoter of justice, who makes sure all Church law and teachings are followed.

Before a person can be deemed a saint, they must first be named “venerable” — which Sister Henriette was named March 27, 2010, by Pope Benedict XVI — then “blessed,” which requires either martyrdom or an “inexplicable medical event,” or miracle, attributed to that person’s intercession.

Sister Doris said Sister Sylvia Thibodeaux and Dr. Virginia Gould, a historian assisting the sisters with the beatification cause, visited Bishop Taylor in Little Rock the end of May.

“We wanted to tell him how much we appreciate their work with the inquiry on this last alleged miracle, and we appreciate everything they did,” she said.

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