FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS
FEAST DAY – 12th JANUARY
Marguerite Bourgeoys, born on 17 April 1620 – died 12 January 1700, was a French nun and founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal in the colony of New France, now part of Québec, Canada. Born in Troyes, she became part of a sodality, ministering to the poor from outside the convent. She was recruited by the governor of Montreal to set up a convent in New France, and she sailed to Fort Ville-Marie (now Montreal) by 1653. There she developed the convent and educated young girls, the poor, and children of First Nations until shortly before her death in early 1700.
Children from European as well as Native American backgrounds in 17th-century Canada benefited from her great zeal and unshakable trust in God’s providence. The sixth of 12 children in Troyes, France, Marguerite at the age of 20 believed that she was called to religious life. Her applications to the Carmelites and Poor Clares were unsuccessful. A priest friend suggested that maybe, God had other plans for her.
In 1654, the governor of the French settlement in Canada visited his sister, an Augustinian canoness in Troyes. Marguerite belonged to a sodality connected to that convent. The governor invited her to come to Canada and start a school in Ville-Marie (eventually the city of Montreal). When she arrived, the colony numbered 200 people with a hospital and a Jesuit mission chapel.
Soon after starting a school, she realized her need for co-workers. Returning to Troyes, she recruited a friend, Catherine Crolo, and two other young women. In 1667, they added classes at their school for Indian children. A second trip to France three years later resulted in six more young women and a letter from King Louis XIV, authorizing the school. The Congregation of Notre Dame was established in 1676 but its members did not make formal religious profession until 1698 when their Rule and constitutions were approved.
Marguerite established a school for Indian girls in Montreal. At the age of 69, she walked from Montreal to Quebec in response to the bishop’s request to establish a community of her sisters in that city. By the time she died, she was referred to as the “Mother of the Colony.” She is significant for developing one of the first uncloistered religious communities in the Catholic Church.
Marguerite was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1982, and is the first female saint of Canada. The process was begun nearly 100 years before in 1878, when Pope Leo XIII gave her the title of “venerable” by papal decree. In November 1950, Pope Pius XII beatified her, giving her the title “Blessed Marguerite Bourgeoys.” The two miracles that led to her beatification both involved a miraculous cure from gangrene of the foot, gained by Joseph Descoteaux of St. Celestin, Quebec; and John Ludger Lacroix of St. Johnsbury, Vermont. On 2 April 1982, Pope John Paul II issued the Decree of Miracle for a cure attributed to her intercession. On 31 October that year, she was canonized as Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys.
Heavenly Father, you strengthened the resolve of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys to a greater faith, not easily discouraged when plans that she set were frustrated. Marguerite was called, not to be a cloistered nun, but to be a foundress and an educator. You had not ignored her after all, and helped her fulfill her purpose, with success and merit.
Help all who repose faith and trust in you, reognise the extent of your faithfulness, and work in accordance with your Holy plan, through Christ our Lord, from Whom all good things come. Amen
Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, pray for us.