In 1899, Leonie, the sister of St. Therese, entered religious
life for the fourth time. On June 30,1899, she received the habit and took the name
Sister Françoise-Thérèse. As a novice, she was under the direction of Sister
Louise Henriette Vaugeois. Leonie was very attached to her due to her humility,
simplicity, and gentleness towards her. However, Sister Louise was asked to
return to her old monastery in Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Sister Marie Aimée de Songnis took over the training of Léonie. Sister Marie Aimée was very different from Sister Louise. She was more strict on following the Visitation Rule. This led Leonie into a depressed state of mind, for it was very difficult for Leonie to learn the rule quickly enough so that she would not fall into the dismay of her directress.
Leonie’s sisters at the Carmel were alarmed and feared that Leonie would be forced to leave the monastery once more. However, through the encouragement of her sisters at Carmel and the intercession of her deceased aunt Sister Marie-Dosithée and sister Therese, Leonie survived this trial.
On July 2, 1900, Leonie’s novitiate was completed and she professed her final vows. Mother Superior decided that Leonie’s jobs in the monastery would be assistant to the bursar, nurse, assistant in the refectory, and assistant in the sacristy. Leonie’s duties as assistant to the bursar were to ensure that everything in the convent was arranged accordingly. Her duties as nurse were taking care of the needs of the sick and aged nuns. She assisted the sisters in the refectory who prepared the two meals for the community. In the sacristy Leonie prepared the linens, corporals, palls, and purificators for Mass.
Leonie joyfully accepted the tasks assigned to her. She was
forced to make many sacrifices in her work. With great humility, she used these
opportunities to offer them to God and use them for the opportunity of saving
souls, in particular for priests.
On Sept. 30, 1912, while Leonie was chanting the Divine Office, an apparition of her sister Therese’s hands appeared to her on her book. This apparition affirmed to Leonie that her sister was always with her. The experience encouraged Leonie to work harder at becoming a saint.
The canonization process for Therese progressed rapidly, and on April 9, 1915, an examination of Therese’s virtues was required for the Apostolic Process. The examination of these virtues would take place at the Carmelite monastery in Lisieux. It was a great joy for Leonie to meet her sisters, Marie, Pauline and Celine. Leonie had not seen them for 17 years. After this visit, Leonie would not see her sisters again in this earthly life.
Leonie remarked: “I belong to a family of saints and I must not blemish that heritage.” Leonie strove to be hidden and followed the footsteps of her sister Therese one step at a time.
Before and after the canonization of Therese on May 17, 1925, many visitors came to the Visitation monastery to see Leonie. Most of them would request for her to pray to her sister Therese for their intentions.
In the 1930s Leonie was in poor health and she suffered patiently. Prayer was an important part of Leonie’s life. It is prayer that Leonie’s heart desired constantly. She loved to spent hours in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Leonie said, “It is before the Blessed Sacrament that our hearts and minds are prepared to receive Him. Let us also sow many ‘Hail Marys’ for it is our Immaculate Mother in heaven that will be there to save us all.”
At the end of 1940, Leonie had to stay at the infirmary. Leonie strove
to fulfill her duties. She said: “Yes, I suffer much, but I don’t want to stop,
I wish to go on until the end.”
Leonie died on June 17, 1941, with a smile on her face. She was buried on June 21. The beatification process of Leonie began in France on Jan. 24, 2015.
For more resources visit Archives du Carmel de Lisieux.