Pope Francis yesterday authorized the Heroic Virtue of Brother William Gagnon, giving him the title of Venerable and launching him on the first step on the potential path to sainthood. 

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presented Brother Gagnon’s name to the Holy Father along with a list of others at an audience Dec. 14. 

Born to French-Canadian parents in Dover, New Hampshire on May 16, 1905, Brother Gagnon joined the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God in Montreal, Quebec in 1932 at the age of 25. This order, which began under St. John of God in Grenada, Spain, is dedicated to practicing hospitality, especially in caring for the sick and needy.

Brother Gagnon spent his first few years with the order in Canada, but in 1952 he was allowed to go to serve in northern Vietnam at the Bui-Chu Mission. 

It was there that he poured out his life caring for sick and wounded refugees and worked to further establish the Hospitaller Order in Vietnam. After he died of a heart attack on Feb. 28, 1972, many people came to venerate him at his grave.

Being named “Venerable” is the second of four steps on the path to canonization. First one is declared “Servant of God” when their cause is accepted for consideration, followed by “Venerable”, next “Blessed” and finally, “Saint.”