The Miracle at Grand Coteau
In 1864, Mary Wilson, a strong-willed woman with Presbyterian roots, traveled to St. Louis from New London, Canada. What was supposed to be a short trip turned into much more when Mary met and was befriended by many Catholics in the region. Against her parents’ wishes, Mary decided not to return home to New London, Canada. She instead decided to become Catholic, and furthermore, she decided to become a nun.
Around the time she was answering the call of the Lord, Mary encountered a few health issues. In hopes that a milder climate would help recover her health, Mary embarked on a riverboat to Louisiana. She was sent to Grand Coteau, Louisiana, where she would train to become a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart.
Unfortunately, Mary’s arrival to Grand Coteau in June of 1866 did not result in better health. In fact, she was very near death. When all medical solutions were exhausted, the close knit group of sisters at the Academy of the Sacred Heart gathered together to pray. The community prayed a novena to Blessed John Berchmans that God would cure or at least relieve young Mary Wilson from her excruciating pain.
On December 14, 1866, the ninth day of the novena, from her bed in the infirmary, Mary Wilson, unable to speak, prayed within her heart, “Lord, Thou Who seest how I suffer, if it be for your honor and glory and the salvation of my soul, I ask through the intercession of Blessed Berchmans a little relief and health. Otherwise, give me patience to the end.”
At that moment, Mary heard a voice whisper, “Open your mouth”. She then felt someone place a finger on her tongue and immediately, she was relieved. She then opened her eyes and saw a figure by her bedside holding a cup in his hands. When she asked, “Is it Blessed Berchmans?” he answered, “Yes, I come by the order of God. Your sufferings are over. Fear not.”
About a month after the miracle took place, Mary was asked to document her account of the apparition to the best of her ability (see below for hand-written account). The canonization of Blessed John Berchmans hinged on the Vatican’s acceptance of the miracle as authentic. On January 27, 1867, Blessed John Berchmans appeared to her for a second time, to let her know he was satisfied with her statements, to urge her to be faithful to the religious order she had joined and to inform her that she would die before she became a nun.
On August 17, 1867, Mary Wilson passed away of a cerebral hemorrhage. She is buried at the convent cemetery in Grand Coteau.
Blessed John Berchmans was canonized by Pope Leo XIII on January 15, 1888.
To read more about the many miracles of St. John Berchmans click the button below.
Hand-written account of the apparition and miracle, by Mary Wilson.
“Not being able to discover any marks of convalescence, but an immediate return to health, from a severe and painful illness, I am unable to explain the transition by any ordinary natural laws.”
– Dr. Edward M. Millard M.D., physician attending Mary Wilson, 1866 –
Youth attending Mass at the Shrine in Grand Coteau.
Stained glass windows, Sts. Peter & Paul, Scott, Louisiana