Pope Francis has moved a British woman closer to canonisation for the second time in less than a month.
The Pontiff formally declared that Mother Mary Veronica of the Passion, a Carmelite nun, lived a life of heroic virtue, just weeks after he declared Frances Taylor, a nurse who served with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, also to be Venerable.
The Holy Father’s decree opens the way for the search for two miracles first to declare her Blessed and finally to canonise her. Mother Mary Veronica founded the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel, a religious congregation of Carmelite nuns based in India.
She was born Sophie Leeves in 1823 in Constantinople to the Rev Henry Daniel Leeves, an Anglican chaplain to the British Embassy there, and Marina Haultain, the daughter of a colonel in British Army. But when she was a teenager she felt drawn to the Catholic Church. She developed an intense prayer life and craved the Sacraments of Penance and Communion.
She later broke off an engagement to marry a naval officer and converted to the Catholic faith at the age of 27 during a visit to Malta in 1850. She entered the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition in France the following year and in 1863 accepted a teaching post in Kozhikode in India.
Mother Mary Veronica left her order and entered the Carmelite convent at Pau in southern France, before she went on to found her own teaching order five years later.
In 1892 the order, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Carmelite Third Order Regular, was formally affiliated with the Discalced Carmelite Order and today it has branches in India, Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Pakistan, Kenya, Rome and Bahrain. Mother Veronica died in Pau on November 16 1906 at the age of 83 and her Cause for Canonisation was opened at the request of her order in 1997.
The progress of her Cause came just a month after Pope Francis also recognised the heroic virtues of Frances Taylor, a nurse who tended dying soldiers alongside Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War.
Frances, the youngest of 10 children of an Anglican vicar from Lincolnshire, was 22 when she volunteered to join the Lady of the Lamp in Scutari, Turkey, in 1854 when Britain was at war with Russia.
She was deeply impressed by the faith of the dying Irish soldiers she was caring for and became a Catholic while serving in the field.
She established a religious order – the Poor Servants of the Mother of God – which under her direction opened refuges for prostitutes and homeless women and children in London before spreading throughout Europe.
As Mother Magdalen Taylor, Frances also founded the Providence Free Hospital in St Helens, Lancashire, and took over the running of St Joseph’s Asylum in Dublin. She died in her convent in Soho Square in 1900 after falling ill en route to Rome. She is buried at Roehampton, south west London, after establishing 20 institutions in her own lifetime.
Today her order continues to work particularly with the poor, the elderly and the disabled.
The last British women to be declared saints were Anne Line, Margaret Ward and Margaret Clitherow, who were among the 40 English and Welsh Martyrs of the Protestant Reformation canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
Other British women who are being considered for canonisation include Elizabeth Prout, a 19th century Passionist nun who worked in the slums of Manchester; Mary Potter, a Londoner who founded an order of nursing nuns in Nottingham in the same period and Margaret Sinclair, a 20th-century Scottish nun who died of tuberculosis after tending to the poor of Edinburgh.
The Vatican is also studying the Causes of London-born Mother Riccarda Beauchamp Hambrough, a Bridgettine nun who helped to hide about 60 Jews from the Nazis in her Rome convent during the Second World War, and Mother Katherine Flanagan, also a London-born Bridgettine.
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