In 1653, Marguerite Bourgeoys, a woman from the Champagne region of France, crossed the ocean in order to participate in the building of Ville-Marie, a tiny colony along the banks of the St. Lawrence River in the New World. The founders of Ville-Marie (now Montreal) hoped that this new society would be like the early Christian community. Marguerite's particular contribution was to educate the women and children of the colony, both native and French.
Marguerite's inspiration and model for her ocean journey, for her work, and for the whole of her life was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who travelled to bring God's word to her cousin Elizabeth and who was present with the other disciples at the birth of the Church, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
For over 300 years, in every generation, women have been moved to live in the spirit of Marguerite Bourgeoys and to engage in the same mission.
The four women from France whom Marguerite Bourgeoys recruited in 1659 were soon joined by others born in both France and New France, as well as by some indigenous women. In the years and centuries that followed, French and English speaking Canadians, women from the United States, Japan, Latin America, France, and most recently the Cameroon have come together to live their lives in the pattern of Mary's in Marguerite's Congregation. Currently there are about 1150 members.
From the time of her arrival in Ville-Marie, Marguerite Bourgeoys lived and worked in close collaboration with the other colonists. At present that collaboration takes many forms, but in particular the Congregation has welcomed and been enriched by the presence of about 900 Associates, women and men who are found in every area where CNDs are living and working.