Blessed Marie-Leonie Paradis
Foundress of the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family


Virginie-Alodie Paradis was born on May 12, 1840, at L'Acadie, Quebec, a village near Montreal. Her parents, Joseph Paradis and Émilie Grégoire had six children, two of whom died as infants. Élodie (Alodie) was their third child and only daughter. She had three brothers: Joseph-Édouard, Émilien and Vital.

At an early age, she had a great desire for God and an attraction to the religious life. On February 27, 1854, when she was 14, she joined the Marianites of Holy Cross where she wished to devote herself to the service of priests. At the novitiate, she received the name of Sister Marie-de-Sainte-Leonie and after her profession on August 22, 1857, she was sent to teach. Her attraction to support the ministry of priests was very strong but only in 1874 was she able to realize her dream.


She was sent to Memramcook, New Brunswick, as superior of the sisters and to maintain the domestic management at Saint Joseph's College directed by Father Camille Lefebvre, a Holy Cross Father. After her arrival, many young Acadians presented themselves to become religious. They were poor and most of them did not speak English, and Sister Marie-de-Sainte-Leonie had to send them to Indiana to make their novitiate. She asked to open a francophone novitiate in Acadia but this request was refused. Numerous Acadians wished to commit themselves to God and after a short time of formation were sent to serve in houses of education. The Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family was officially recognized on May 31, 1880.

Because the Bishop of Saint John, New Brunswick, did not accept them as a new religious community in his diocese, for fear of having to support the sisters, Bishop Paul LaRocque of Sherbrooke, Quebec, welcomed them warmly in his diocese in 1895. Still a religious of Holy Cross, Mother Marie-Leonie was strongly advised to become a Little Sister of the Holy Family. Therefore, in 1905, she asked Rome to be released from her commitment toward her original community. She remained Foundress and Superior General until her sudden death on May 3, 1912, at the age of 72.


In 1984, at the time of his visit to Canada, Pope John-Paul II beatified Mother Marie-Leonie Paradis at Jarry Park, Montreal.

In 2012, to commemorate the centenary of her death, the artist, Marius Dubois of the Royal Academy of Canada, was commissioned by the Institute to paint a picture representing Blessed Marie-Leonie in an attitude of serve and clothe with a most beautiful vestment, which is at the same time priestly and royal, for Christ is Priest and King. The flowers strewn on the ground symbolize her love of nature.


Young religious accompany her since she never worked alone, spending all her energies in founding an Institute, to grant to these young women the possibility of giving themselves to God. Piety and dedication is their motto.

At the right side corner of the picture, the small church of L'Acadie is represented, the place where her spiritual experience began.