St. Thérèse of Lisieux is the patroness saint of the Diocese of Fresno. St. Thérèse was born January 2, 1873, in Alcon, Normandy, France. She became a Carmelite nun at the age of fifteen, when she defined her path to God as “The Little Way,” which consisted of love and trust in God. She died of tuberculosis on September 30, 1897, in Lisieux, France, at the age of twenty-four. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925, and in 1997 St. Thérèse of Lisieux was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II.
Although her life as a nun was short-lived, it wasn’t without much accomplishment. While St. Thérèse lived an obscure and unknown life as a cloistered nun, she later became one of the most popular saints of all time. St. Thérèse wrote an autobiography, Story of a Soul, which was published after her death. Seventeen years after her death, nearly one million copies of her autobiography were sold, and printed in thirty-five languages. Today, various images, statues and churches of St. Thérèse of Lisieux can be found in almost every town and city in Christendom. Various buildings have been built in her honor. She is known as “the child loved by all the world.”
Diocese dedicated to St. Thérèse
During his visit to Rome in 1925, just as the “little Flower” was about to be canonized, Bishop John Bernard MacGinley, Bishop of the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno, was inspired to name his new diocese for the new saint. He petitioned the Holy Father to make St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, its patroness. In compliance with the rule that a diocese have at least one church dedicated to the patron saint, the bishop found a way to meet the rule and fulfill his heartfelt desire. He renamed Our Lady of Victory, the youngest parish in Fresno with as yet no church building, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Ground was broken September 1, 1925, for the shrine. Thus the Diocese was the first in the world to be dedicated to the young saint who had captivated the world with her life of the “little Way,” which paved the way for the teaching of Vatican Council II that all- not just clergy- are called to holiness.
St. Thérèse is most commonly represented with roses and a crucifix in her arms. She is the patron saint for the missions and of florists. St. Thérèse of Lisieux is also known as “Thérèse of the Child Jesus” and “The Little Flower.” Her feast day is October 1.
Secondary Patron / Important Saints
In addition to St. Thérèse, St. Columba is the secondary saint of the Diocese of Fresno. He was born December 7, 521, in Donegal, Ireland. He died on June 9, 597, which is his feast day in Iona, Scotland. St. Columba was the father of Christianity to the Scots people of the small coastal area west of Druim Alban. He is the patron of poets, bookbinders, as well as various dioceses in Ireland and Scotland, and provides protection against floods.
St. Agnes is another important saint for the Diocese of Fresno. Saint Agnes was an early Christian martyr, who devoted her life entirely to God. She is the patron saint of the city of Fresno. There is a mission church located in Pinedale, California, that is dedicated to her, and there is a major medical center in the city of Fresno that bears her name.