Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Simon Caldwell

8/4/2008 (8 years ago)

The Catholic Herald (UK) (

Sister Elizabeth has been compared to a Victorian Mother Teresa because of her work among poor mill workers and refugees from the Irish potato famine, although she was derided in her own lifetime as a "revolutionary".


By Simon Caldwell

The Catholic Herald (UK) (

8/4/2008 (8 years ago)

Published in Christian Saints & Heroes

LONDON (Catholic Herald) - The unexplained healings of two people from terminal illnesses are to be investigated as possible miracles that could give Britain its first woman saint in more than four decades.

A man suffering from cancer and a woman with a brain injury from a fractured skull recovered from their conditions after their families prayed to Sister Elizabeth Prout, a 19th-century nun who worked with the poor in the slums of Manchester.

Catholic officials in England are now preparing to travel to Chile, where both healings took place, to begin preliminary investigations that could result in the Pope declaring Sister Elizabeth a saint in as little as five years time.

Sister Elizabeth has been compared to a Victorian Mother Teresa because of her work among poor mill workers and refugees from the Irish potato famine, although she was derided in her own lifetime as a "revolutionary".

A convert from the Church of England to Catholicism, she opened nine schools in industrialised parts of the north west of England and set up an order of nuns - the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, or Passionist Sisters - who helped women to escape poverty by training them in the skills they needed to make a living on their own.

Her order now has more than 300 Sisters working in Britain, the Irish Republic, America, Botswana, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Peru and Chile.

A 14-year diocesan investigation into Sister Elizabeth's life of "heroic virtue" drew to a conclusion with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool at her graveside in the Church of St Anne and Blessed Dominic, St Helens, Merseyside, on Tuesday and the file on her life was sealed and sent to the Vatican.

The Holy See will carry out its own investigation before declaring her "Venerable" and two approved miracles will be required for her beatification and canonisation.

Glasgow-based Passionist Fr Paul Francis Spencer, the postulator of her Cause, said the first of two possible miracles occurred in 2000 and involved a married father with "a very serious cancer".

Fr Spencer said: "He was to be operated on and there was very little hope of him surviving the operation, the doctors said.

"A friend of his was in contact with the sisters and knew about Elizabeth Prout and he recommended that the family should pray to her.

"The whole family, together with their friends, prayed through the intercession of Elizabeth Prout for his cure.

"When the doctors came to operate, they did a preliminary X-ray or scan and they found no sign of the cancer being there."

The second healing happened in 1999 and involved a woman who inexplicably recovered from a brain injury, incurred in an accident, after her family prayed to Sister Elizabeth.

Sister Anne Cunningham, the Manchester-based superior general of the Passionist Sisters, will this month fly to Chile to interview the people involved and their doctors.

If she and her delegation decide there are grounds to pursue the healings as possible miracles they will ask Catholic leaders in Chile to set up tribunals to formally gather evidence.

If Sister Elizabeth's Cause progresses as planned she will become the first British woman saint since Paul VI canonised the Reformation-era martyrs St Margaret Clitherowe, St Anne Line and St Margaret Ward - and possibly the first British saint since the Scottish Jesuit St John Ogilvie was canonised by Pope Paul in 1976.

Born in Coleham, Shrewsbury, Sister Elizabeth became a nun in her 20s after she fell under the influence of Blessed Dominic Barberi, an Italian Passionist priest working in England.

Soon afterwards she began working with the poor and caught tuberculosis. She died in St Helens in 1864 aged 43.

Passionist Sister Dominic Savio Hamer, who helped to prepare the documents for her Cause, said the nun would probably be known as "St Elizabeth of Manchester" if she was canonised.

She said that Sister Elizabeth was a woman of "great integrity and great honesty" who taught her followers to combine lives of prayer with social action.

"She was totally selfless," said Sister Dominic, who is based in Warrington, Cheshire. "She gave herself completely to God. She constantly searched for the will of God and she endured such hardships to carry out the will of God."

Sister Elizabeth is now one of at least five post-Reformation British men and women whose Causes for sainthood are being considered by the Vatican.

They include Cardinal John Henry Newman, a convert from Anglicanism whose beatification is expected to be announced by Pope Benedict XVI later this year.

The others are Fr Ignatius Spencer, the great-great-great uncle of Diana, Princess of Wales, and a relative of Winston Churchill.

The aristocratic, cricket-mad Fr Ignatius, a Passionist priest and also a convert, was a good friend of Sister Elizabeth and helped her to draw up the rules for her order.

They died the same year and now lie side by side in a side chapel in the same St Helens church where Blessed Dominic was also buried..

Other candidates for sainthood include the Venerable Mary Potter, a Londoner who founded the Little Company of Mary, an order of nursing nuns in Nottingham, in the 19th century, and Venerable Margaret Sinclair, a 20th century Scottish nun who died of tuberculosis after tending to the poor in the slums of Edinburgh.

There are also scores of beatified martyrs of the Protestant Reformation whose Causes have yet to proceed to canonisation.


More Christian Saints & Heroes

St. Ignatius of Antioch: Model of Bravery, Man for our Times Watch

Image of One of many icons of St. Ignatius of Antioch

By Billy Atwell

In the face of the current "witch-hunts" endured by some of our Bishops, let us remember a hero on October 17, the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch.  St. Ignatius of Antioch is a bishop and martyr of the Church who died in the ... continue reading

St Francis Through the Eyes of His Friend St Bonaventure Watch

Image of Francis of Assisi in prayer

By Deacon Keith Fournier

There is so much to write about in this marvelous account of the life of one of my own personal heroes, the saint whose witness led me back to the Church, Francis of Assisi. However, I will focus on one aspect of Bonaventure's tribute to Francis. He was his ... continue reading

A Promise to God: St. Michael the Archangel, Defend Us in Battle Watch

Image of Michael is also represented in icons as standing on a horizontal body and with his left arm held high, holding a small image of a

By Youngsun Jun

Though I am not strong enough to hold the suffering souls in my arms and carry them home, I can do one thing: I can pray for the deliverance of the souls who are in the darkness. I can request help from the angels for them. I can make a 911 call for them. So again, I ... continue reading

The Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael: Archangels and Powerful Spiritual Allies Sent by Love and for Love Watch

Image of

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

The Catechism of the Catholic Church informs us - The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls 'angels' is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition (328). Charged by God to ... continue reading

My Memoir of St. Padre Pio: Price of Suffering and Beatification by the Brush of Grace

Image of Padre Pio in death.

By Matt Hicks

Miraculous testimony of an elite level gymnast touched by Padre Pio: 'Pio, like all the saints, is like the window-washer that scales tall buildings to clear away the muck and allow us to see His luminous rays aflame. God sends them, as He pushes us forward, ... continue reading

Which is it? Saint Teresa of Calcutta or Mother Teresa of Kolkata Watch

Image of The icon of Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

There is confusion over the proper title of Mother Teresa. Her name is appearing in the media as both "Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta" and "Mother Teresa of Kolkata," sometimes written with the word "Mother" and sometimes without. Which is correct? LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

The saints are real and active in our lives! Saint Padre Pio intercedes on behalf of baby with critical heart condition Watch

Image of Saint Padre Pio has been credited with intercession that saved the life of baby Caitlin Dooley.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The saints are real and active in our lives. This is more obvious than ever following the miraculous recovery of a baby in an Irish intensive care unit. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A relic of Saint Padre Pio has been credited with a dramatic improvement in ... continue reading

Clare of Assisi as Model: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Calls for Women of Courage to Renew the Church Watch

Image of


In her convent of San Damiano, Clare heroically practiced the virtues that should characterize all Christians: humility, a spirit of piety and penance, and charity.  Her fame of sanctity and the prodigies that came about thanks to her intervention led Pope ... continue reading

Fr. Paul Schenck on Edith Stein: Daughter of Israel, Daughter of the Church Watch

Image of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, Edith Stein, Catholic feminist, philosopher and martyr of Auschwitz: Throughout her life, Edith never renounced or denounced her Jewish identity. Rather, as demonstrated in her memoir, her participation in Jewish customs at home, her letter to the Pope and in her correspondences, she spoke of her Jewish roots as intrinsic to her self-identification, to her views and even to aspects of her vocation

By Fr. Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck

August 9 is the Memorial of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, Edith Stein, Catholic feminist, philosopher and martyr of Auschwitz. In this sketch, Fr. Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck, Jewish born priest and Chair of the National Pro-Life Center (Washington, DC), examines the ... continue reading

Saint Ignatius of Loyola Challenges All of Us to Become Saints Watch

Image of On July 31st we remember the founder of the Company or Society of Jesus (Jesuits), Ignatius of Loyola. He is the patron saint of soldiers and of retreatants. There is a connection. He was a soldier and the Spiritual Exercise which he left us have been used for hundreds of years to help men and women like us encounter Jesus Christ, on retreats, and in our daily lives. The disciplines they promote can help us to grow in holiness of life, no matter what our state in life, and equip us for service in the Army of the King, Jesus Christ.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Over the centuries, the Jesuits have been relied upon by Popes as trustworthy, heroic soldiers for Jesus Christ and His Church. Yes, there have been times when the company seemed to lose its fervor. However, Jesus Christ the King has always sent His Spirit to ... continue reading

All Christian Saints & Heroes News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:7-16
7 On each one of us God's favour has been bestowed in whatever way Christ ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents Of David] I rejoiced that they said to me, 'Let us go ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:1-9
1 It was just about this time that some people arrived and told him about ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 22nd, 2016 Image

St. Pope John Paul II
October 22: Karol J. Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his ... Read More