Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620 - 1700)Friday, February 05, 2010
April 17, 1620 - January 12, 1700)
In 1659, she began receiving girls who were recommended by "les cures" in France, or endowed by the King, to come to establish homes in Montreal, and she became a real mother to them. This initiated a school system and a network of social services which led people to refer to her as "Mother of the Colony".
Marguerite Bourgeoys returned to France three times to recruit more teachers. This new group of nuns wanted to remain uncloistered, free to conduct their work. The concept was an innovation at that time. They called themselves the Congregation de Notre-Dame and they received approval from Louis XIV in 1671 and the Bishop of Quebec in 1676.
Marguerite had survived many threats in the twenty-six years she had been in wilderness of Canada. She had lived through Iroquois attacks, a fire that destroyed her small village, plagues on the ships that she took back and forth to France, but nothing threatened her dreams and hopes more than what her own bishop said to her in 1679. He told her that she had to join her Congregation of Notre Dame with its teaching sisters to a cloistered religious order of Ursulines. This was not the first time she'd heard this command. Whether from a misplaced desire to protect her Sisters or from discomfort in dealing with an active religious order of women, bishops had long wanted to fit her into the usual mold of cloistered orders.
In 1693, with her foundation assured, Marguerite handed over her congregation to her successor, Marie Barbier, the first Canadian to join the order. She wrote her autobiography.
On December 31, 1699, a young sister lay dying and Mother Marguerite asked God to take her life in exchange. The next morning of January 1, 1700, the sister was completely well, but Mother Marguerite had a raging fever. She suffered for twelve days and then on January 12, 1700 in Montreal.
She is buried in the sanctuary of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel in Montreal, which also houses a museum about her life and the early history of Montreal.
She is acknowledged for her holiness of life. Today, her commitment lives on through the members of the community she founded. More than 2,600 Sisters of the Congregation de Notre-Dame now work in the fields of education and the promotion of family in Canada, the United States, Japan, Latin America, Cameroon, and most recently in France.