Biography of St. Emily deVialar


St. Emily deVialar ~ Feastday June 17 

Emily, born in Gaillac, France, in 1797, was the daughter of Baron James deVialar and Antoinette Portal. She lived in a day and age when there was great antagonism and persecution toward the Catholic Faith. In spite of this, she was well educated in the Faith; so much so, that she wanted to enter the religious life at a young age. She was educated in Paris, but returned home when she was 15 after the death of her mother.  Life with her domineering father was extremely difficult, particularly when she refused to marry, and it is said that he even went so far as to throw a wine decanter at her when she persisted in her refusal.  His anger and ill-temper were further fueled when she began to teach poor children and set up an out-patient clinic on the terrace of their home.

 For fifteen years she dedicated herself to charitable work in the community and was known as "the good angel of Gaillac." In 1832, when Emily was 35 years old, her grandmother died and left her a portion of her considerable fortune.  With this money Emily purchased a large house in Gaillac, and with the help of her spiritual director, Abbe' Mercier, she and three companions began the congregation which became known as the Congregation of Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition (Mt 1:18-20). By 1835, they numbered 29 and their rule was formally approved.  They dedicated themselves to the care of the sick and the needy and to the education of young children.

Emily's congregation soon spread to Algeria, Tunisia, Greece, Malta, Jerusalem, and the Balkans, although a jurisdictional dispute with the bishop of Algiers forced the closing of the house there. Emily had begun to seek papal approval of her Order, but the politics of the day prevented the pope from giving his recognition. The Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition didn't gain papal approval until 1870, 14 years after it's founder's death.

Traveling constantly among her new foundations, when she finally retuned to Gaillac in 1845, she found the organization in chaos and its existence threatened by lawsuits and quarrels among the nuns.  Her estate, which had been bankrolling the Order, was so poorly managed that by 1851 she was bankrupt. The Sisters of her Order were reduced to sometimes getting their only meal from soup kitchens run by other Orders. Emily moved the Order to Marseilles, where the local bishop helped her slowly rebuild. By the time of her death in 1856, 22 years after she founded the Order, she had established 40 houses around the world from Europe to Burma to Australia. To this day, the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition continue to serve the poor. Her last testament to the Sisters in her house was, "Love one another."

She was canonized by Pope Pius XIII in 1951. Her feastday is June 17.