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Revolutionary War Hero Ethan Allen’s Daughter Became a Nun After an Apparition of St. Joseph


Sister Frances Margaret (Fanny) Allen of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph died on Sept. 10, 1819, in Montreal at the Hotel-Dieu, the hospital and convent founded by Venerable Jerome Le Royer, Venerable Marie de la Ferre, and Jeanne Mance.

She was a Vermonter in Canada, the first woman from New England to become a Catholic religious, and the daughter of deist, rationalist and American Revolutionary hero, Ethan Allen.

Fanny Allen was born on Nov. 13, 1784. Her father died when she was 4 years old and her mother, also named Fanny, remarried (to Dr. Jabez Penniman). Neither the Allen nor the Penniman household was particularly religious. In the midst of the great religious revivals in the British colonies and the post-revolutionary period, Ethan Allen had written and self-published Reason: The Only Oracle of Man (1785). So few copies sold that the printer demanded more money to cover his losses. Fanny laughed through her baptism ceremony when she was an adult. Her mother insisted she be baptized by an Episcopalian minister in 1805 before she went to Catholic Montreal to study French. The minister, Daniel Barber, did not appreciate her mirth.

But the rationalist Fanny had a mysterious event in her past, one that reason had failed to explain, as she recounted:

When I was twelve years old, I was walking one day on the banks of the river which flowed not very far from our house. The water, although very clear, rolled by in torrents. Suddenly I beheld emerging from the river an animal more resembling a monster than a fish, for it was of extraordinary size and horrid shape. It was coming directly toward me and sent a chill of terror through me. What aggravated my peril was that I could not turn away from this monster. I seemed paralyzed and rooted to the ground. While I was in this torturing situation, I saw advancing toward me a man with a venerable and striking countenance, wearing a brown cloak and carrying a staff in his hand. He took hold of my arm gently and gave me strength to move while he said most kindly to me: “My child, what are you doing here? Hasten away.” I then ran as fast as I could. When I was some distance off, I turned to look at this venerable man, but I could see him nowhere.

Her mother sent a servant to find the man and thank him but he had vanished.

She had another mysterious experience in the boarding school of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame in Montreal while studying French. One of the sisters asked her to place some flowers on the altar and to make some recognition of the Real Presence in the tabernacle. Allen agreed to arrange the flowers but did not intend to acknowledge something she did not believe in. She then found herself physically unable to enter the chapel or approach the altar until she suddenly believed in the Real Presence, fell on her knees, and adored him.

Read more at National Catholic Register 

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