Marguerite Bourgeoys


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foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Montréal. Born at Troyes (Aube), the daughter of a prolific wax-chandler, she tried to be a nun at the local convents of Carmelites and Poor Clares. Both refused her. After this she joined a local unenclosed community of active nuns, but this venture came to nothing.

In 1652 the governor of Montréal visited Troyes and recruited her as schoolmistress: she landed at Québec in 1653 and went to the fort of Ville-Marie (Montréal), where she taught the children and helped in the hospital and general life of the tiny outpost. In 1658 the first school at Montréal was opened under her charge, but realizing that it would expand, she returned to France and brought back four more helpers. This process was repeated in 1670–2. By this time she had decided to found a Congregation and in 1676 it was canonically established by the bishop of Québec.

Difficulties abounded, but so also did opportunities. Schools for Indian children were begun; education for French children expanded under Marguerite's care to Québec and Trois Rivières. There were various disasters such as fires and massacres by neighbouring Iroquois. In face of them all she continued with indomitable courage through the hardships of poverty, pioneering, and the misunderstandings of bishops. In 1698 twenty-four sisters made their professions, but by then she had resigned from being their superior. Her health and strength diminished until she died on 12 January 1700. The 200 convents of her congregation today are evidence for her wisdom and sheer goodness described by contemporaries. She was beatified in 1950 and canonized in 1982. Feast: 21 January.

Lives by L. Caza (1982), Y. Charron (Eng. tr. 1950);B.L.S., i. 83–4;Bibl. SS., iii. 375–6. H.S.S.C., ix. 88–95.

Subjects: Christianity.

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