Emilie De Vialar, a Saint and Foundress, was born on September 12, 1797 in a family of noble descent. Her father, Antoine Auguste Jacques, was the son of a renowned High Court Judge. Her mother, Antoinette Emilie de Portal, was the daughter of Monsieur De Portal, physician to King Charles and Louis XVIII. The small town of Gaillac is situated in South-West of France, on the river Tarn. The daughter of Monsieur et Madame De Vialar was baptized as Anne Marguerite Adelaide Emilie De Vialar.
Emilie was the eldest of the three children. Her brother Augustine De Vialar remained all his life a friend and devoted collaborator in all her admirable and charitable undertakings. The younger brother was Maximin.
Emilie was blessed to have been brought up by her mother, who at an early age inculcated in her children the Christian virtues and faith. Unfortunately, Emilie lost her mother at the tender age of 13, and a new chapter opened in her life. Emilie was sent to Paris, where under the care of her grandfather and aunt. She began her education in the convent school where she studies. She was remembered as an industrious and serious minded pupil. Along with excellent academic study, Emilie received solid Christian formation.
According to the account she gives of her life, Emilie De Vialar received at an early age the inspiration to respond to God's love by a generous love towards Him. Enlightened by God, she resolved to give herself whole-heartedly to him and yield to the attraction with which He inspired in her of practicing charity towards her neighbour.
In fact, the practice of this charity towards all, and the very keen feelings she experienced for the foreign missions, convinced her of her missionary vocation. God was calling her to engage in missionary work which would serve Him and bring solace and relief to the suffering. Emilie stated, 'How fulfilling for the heart that is given to making another happy and to bringing relief to suffering humanity!'
Despite the strong opposition at home, and the huge wealth she inherited from her maternal grandfather as her security, Emilie went ahead as the Lord directed her. Filled with zeal for accomplishing what she believed to be the will of God, and confident in His providence, she gathered together her first companions on Christmas night of 1832 and walked out of her father's house to the house she had bought for the purpose of serving the Lord. When the sounds of festal cheer echoed from every home, four young girls made their way through the narrow streets to their new dwelling where they intended to lead a life consecrated to God in dedication to the poor.
Emilie named the institution 'Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition' and wished that all her daughters, like their patron – St. Joseph, would bring Christ into the world and into the lives of all people they lived and worked with. The work of the Sisters flourished, and the number of companions kept increasing with the years, though not without difficulties and opposition.
Under the fatherly care and encouragement of Msgr. De Gualy – Archbishop of Albi, and with the support and friendship of many friends, Emilie went forward sailing safely through the troubled waters; but always allowing her to be led by the providence of God.
She emerged victorious and a heroic daughter of De Vialars.
'My vocation is essentially for the missions,' Emilie would often say. Her first option was to work in countries where Christ was not known; and this she carried out by daringly sending her Sisters among the Turks and Muslims—to Algeria, Tunis and other Middle Eastern regions.
After these African centres, she founded other houses in quick succession and sent her Sisters to far off missions in Australia, Myanmar (Burma), and Holy Land etc. Wherever the Sisters went, they experienced the protection and care by St. Joseph – their patron, and love and guidance of Blessed Mother Mary; as a consequence the Sisters did wonderfully well. They taught in schools, took care of the orphans, visited the sick in their homes, opened dispensaries and hospitals, gave succor and refuge to all in need without distinction of colour, caste or creed.
At the age of 59, on August 24, 1856 Emilie left for her heavenly abode to join forever Him, whom she loved and served so well.
The decree of praise, given on 6th May 1842 had established her Congregation as an Institute of Pontifical right.
The Holy See approved its Constitutions in 1862. Emilie De Vialar was declared "Blessed" by Pope Pius XII on 18th June, 1939, and the same pontiff canonized her Saint on June 24, 1951.