Who is Marguerite Bourgeoys?

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Pioneer of the New World

Marguerite Bourgeoys is a historical figure of New France (today, the Province of Quebec, Canada). Originally from Troyes, France, she contributed, alongside Jeanne Mance and Paul de Maisonneuve, to the development of Ville-Marie (Montreal) and established New France’s first school. Marguerite aspired to a more just world. She formed respectful bonds with the First Nations, welcomed immigrants, including the Filles du Roy (King’s Wards), and taught them how to survive in the new continent.

Marguerite Bourgeoys was canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II and thus became the first female saint of Canada. An important Quebec religious figure, she, among other things, participated in the construction of the first chapel in Montreal. She also founded a Catholic religious congregation.

 

  • Discovery of her true portrait

  • Pierre Le Ber painted Marguerite’s portrait after her death, the only work accomplished in the presence of the actual model.

    Thanks to recent scientific advancements, we were able to recapture the real portrait!
  • Marguerite’s charism

  • A charism is an inspirational force, a dynamic commitment with a perspective that mobilizes, a gift, a skill, an ability to carry out part of a mission and the capability to act or to bear witness. In short, it is a gift from the Holy Spirit for the common good.

Important events in her life

April 17, 1620

She was born and baptized in Troyes, France.

October 7, 1640

During a procession in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary, Marguerite’s heart was transformed by a spiritual experience that challenged her faith. “…I found myself so moved and so changed that I no longer recognized myself.” (The Writings of Marguerite Bourgeoys p. 163)

November 16, 1653

After a long crossing over the Atlantic, she arrived in Ville-Marie. On the ship that brought her from France to Canada, a plague epidemic broke out; Marguerite cared for the sick and buried the dead.

April 30, 1658

She opened the first school in a stone stable that Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve gave her.

1658-1680

She travelled to France three times in order to recruit young women and to attend to Congregation matters.

1671

King Louis XIV authorized the establishment of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame in New France. Marguerite returned with six companions.

1675

The construction of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel (begun in 1655) was completed.

1676

Bishop Laval authorized Marguerite and her teaching sisters of Ville-Marie to live in community under the name “Filles séculières de la Congrégation.”

June 24, 1698

The rules of the Congregation were permanently established. The sisters made profession and solemnly vowed their life to the service of God and people.

January 12, 1700

Marguerite died at the age of 79 years. For the settlers of Montreal, she was  “Saint Marguerite.”

October 31, 1982

Pope John Paul II canonized Marguerite Bourgeoys, thus giving the Church of Canada its first female saint.

Today

The sisters and associates of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame continue Marguerite Bourgeoys’s work around the world.

Dreamer and Pioneer

Image from a work of Sister Victoire Roy CND.

 

Marguerite’s heart was transformed by an extraordinary grace from God which she received when she looked up at a statue of the Blessed Virgin.

She felt compelled to imitate Mary’s life on earth and wanted all those who entered the congregation to do the same.

Like Mary, Marguerite “never excused herself from any journey when it entailed the glory of God or a work of charity. ”

(The Writings of Marguerite Bourgeoys p. 82)

In order to meet the needs of the colony and her community, she crossed the Atlantic Ocean seven times, despite all the risks these long trips entailed. During these journeys, she cared for the sick and comforted the dying.

She founded one of the first communities of uncloistered women, who went to the people in order to be close to them and meet their needs. She lived with the Filles du Roy (King’s Wards) and helped them adapt to their new country. Like Mary, who helped the first Christians build a New Church, Marguerite wanted to participate in the foundation of a society that reflected the same ideal as that of the first Christian community.

Working alongside Monsieur de Maisonneuve, she dedicated her life to building “a New Church in a new world” and creatively met the challenges of her time. A pioneer in education, she opened the first school in Ville Marie, where she provided scholastic and religious education and taught homemaking to mothers and their children. A woman of action, she served as a social worker, mentor, councillor and mediator in order to meet the needs of the colony. She entrusted the education of young Amerindian girls to two Iroquois young women who shared her great dream.

Marguerite Bourgeoys told by the sisters

For further information about our foundress

Links

Canada's Christian Heritage Web Site
Canada’s First Schoolmistress – Marguerite Bourgeoys – 1620-1700

Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
BOURGEOYS, MARGUERITE, dite du Saint-Sacrement

Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum
& Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel
Marguerite Bourgeoys

The Holy See
Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700)
foundress of the Sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame

Written Documents

Simpson, Patricia, CND,
Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal 1640-1665
McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997, 247 p.

Simpson, Patricia, CND,
Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal 1665-1700
McGill-Queen's University Press, 21005, 292 p.

Simpson, Patricia, CND,
Marguerite Bourgeoys. Brave Beginnings
Montreal, Editions Fides 2009, 120 p.

In the Footsteps of Marguerite Bourgeoys in Montreal.
Walking Tour.

Musée Marguerite-Bourgeoys, 2000, 32 p.
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