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October 31, 2012: 30th Anniversary of the Canonization of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys

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Saint Marguerite, Foundress of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame and Canada's First Saint

It was 30 years ago, on October 31, 1982 that His Holiness Pope John Paul II proclaimed Marguerite Bourgeoys a Saint. Mother of the Colony, first teacher of Ville-Marie, pioneer social worker in New France and foundress of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, Marguerite Bourgeoys became Canada's first Saint (Saint Marguerite d'Youville, canonized in 1990, was the first Canadian born saint).

The cause for Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys was begun by Bishop Ignace Bourget in Montreal in 1869 and was introduced in the Court of Rome in 1878. Marguerite Bourgeoys was beatified by His Holiness Pope Pius XII on November 12, 1950. The vote of the Consistory in favour of the canonization was held on May 24, 1982.

On the eve of the canonization at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, the Most Reverend Paul Grégoire, Archbishop of Montreal summarized Marguerite Bourgeoys's ministry as follows: "she was a teacher and a founder"1 . Pope John Paul II recognized "her missionary fervour, her devotion to developing the many gifts of the youth and to preparing strong Christian families"2 . The values so dear to Marguerite Bourgeoys were highlighted by several speakers during the celebrations which marked the canonization. Many pilgrims took part in the events organized in Rome, in Troyes, the city where Marguerite Bourgeoys was born and where she made her first apostolic commitment, and, of course, in Montreal. On November 26, 1982, the Sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame welcomed colleagues, former students and friends to a Eucharistic celebration held at the Montreal Forum with twenty thousand people in attendance.

Below are a few excerpts from the homily given on this occasion by the Most Reverend Paul Grégoire, Archbishop of Montreal 3 :

"Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys is the first woman to be proclaimed a Saint in this country. We rejoice together because of the distinguished honour bestowed on her. We must express our admiration for her, our thanks to God, and our desire to walk in her footsteps. (...)

A profound missionary inspiration was the starting point for the significant amount of work accomplished by Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys. (...)

Mother Bourgeoys was always on the move, setting out again and again, strong in her trust in God and in the support of the Virgin Mary, opening new paths and new "missions." (...) All her accomplishments were achieved because, according to her own expression, "she embraced the will of God." (...) This way of thinking, so characteristic of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, led to the establishment of an uncloistered religious institution (...) whose members adopted a "journeying" way of life. It was precisely the Mystery of the Visitation of Mary that Mother Bourgeoys adopted as a foundation of the spirituality of her Institute of the Filles séculières de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame. (...)

When thinking of Marguerite Bourgeoys, it is certainly the teacher who first comes to mind. (...) She not only imparted knowledge to young women; she wanted to prepare them for a Christian life and for their role as mothers. (...)

It would take too long to speak about the spirituality that shaped the soul of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys. What is particularly significant to me is her total commitment to the double commandment of love God and love of neighbour. (...)"

Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys's Heritage

"Her mission was to behave in such a way that her life would attract and transform thousands of other lives, so that it may be fruitful throughout space and time, and continue a permanent mission."4 Loyal to the charism of its holy foundress, the Congrégation de Notre-Dame currently carries on its mission of liberating education in eight countries on four continents. At the service of the Church and of society, the Sisters of the Congregation actively participate in the transformation of society in view of a more just world.

  1. French original from Sainte Marguerite Bourgeoys, Canonisation, 31 octobre, souvenir album, Montreal, The Sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, Printed by Notre-Dame Inc., p. 18.
  2. French original from Address given by His Holiness Pope John Paul II to pilgrims, October 30, 1982. Sainte Marguerite Bourgeoys, op. cit., p. 4.
  3. Ibid. p. 56 & 59.

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