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Feast Day of Marguerite Bourgeoys January 12, 2018

Donna Wuhrer

*Before beginning, place a cloth on the prayer table.  Items will be added as we pray.


Leader:  Today we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, the foundress of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal. (Place a picture or statue of Marguerite on the prayer table)  In 1653, Marguerite Bourgeoys, a native of Troyes, France, came to a tiny and beleaguered Ville-Marie, (now Montreal, Canada) still undergoing its birth pangs.  In 1659, when Marguerite's first companions joined her on a return voyage, her Congregation of Sisters began to educate and guide the children and women in New France. Marguerite, an Extern (type of Associate) with the Congregation of Notre Dame Sisters in France taught poor children and brought the spirit of that movement to the women in New France.

Marguerite’s greatest desire was that God be loved above all things;

(Pause here and place the cross on the prayer table.)

and that the neighbor be so loved that she was always the servant of that neighbor.

It is in that spirit of love, compassion and service that we gather today in great joy--to remember, to pray, to celebrate, and give thanks!

(Pause here to place and light a candle on the prayer table.)

Suggested Song:  Prayer of the Congregation (Ave, KP Deignan, CND- based on words of Marguerite Bourgeoys)

*Refrain:  O dearest Mother and Foundress, we seek not comfort or wealth.

                 We only ask that in your name, God may be greatly loved and oh, so faithfully served.

Teach us the wisdom of littleness to be simple, humble, and poor,

To be open to God at the core of our hearts, and to wait on God’s word evermore.*

And teach us the way of mobility:  to be swift and graceful and true,

So that in our lives we may visit again the ones who are waiting for you.*

And teach us the mystery of charity: to hold our neighbor in heart,

To sing of the Spirit alive in our midst, and to carry the word of God’s love.*

Opening Prayer

Leader:  O God, you sent your blessed daughter Marguerite, to love and serve the people you entrusted to her care.  You gave her a loving heart like your own. You filled Marguerite with great faith and a burning desire to work tirelessly for your kingdom.  May we be inspired by her example so that like Marguerite “we may have no other joy than to live in You and with You.” (MB).  Grant this we pray through Christ, our Lord.   All:  Amen

Leader:  As we listen attentively to the following Gospel reading and excerpts about Marguerite and her life, may we be reminded of our call as Christians and our call as Associates and Sisters in the Congregation of Notre Dame--to love our God and love others as we love ourselves.

These are God’s greatest commandments.  This was Marguerite’s greatest desire for her community.  Where is God calling each of us to cultivate love and compassion in our lives?

Reader 1:  Jesus said to his disciples:  ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.  This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.’ (John 15:9-12)

(Place the word “love” on the prayer table)

 All:  Marguerite, pray that we may grow in “love” (Pause)  

Reader 2:  A commandment for all Christians, it was carried by Marguerite to extraordinary lengths—love of God with an intensity we can only guess at, but which we must see as the wellspring of all that she was and did.  Love of neighbor which was the source of her intense zeal for the apostolate (of service), the infinitely precious neighbor loved by Christ to the point of death, the neighbor loved by Marguerite to the extent that she gave her life for another Sister that the apostolate might continue…God loved above all things; the neighbor so loved that she was always the servant of that neighbor. (The Spirituality of Marguerite Bourgeoys, Mary Virginia Cotter, CND)

(Place the word “servant” on the prayer table.)

All:   Marguerite, pray that we may grow in “service” to our neighbor.  (Pause)

Reader 3:  Our Orientation of Chapter 2016 (Rooted in Jesus Christ, in love and compassion, we CND Sisters and Associates…dare to: Live interculturality, Go to the peripheries, Honor and respect our “common home”) is not a new call for our Congregation.  We just have to revisit the life of our foundress and know that the call to cultivate love and compassion was embodied in the very being of Marguerite, a woman who was deeply rooted in Jesus Christ.  Marguerite continues to journey with us today.  The writings of Marguerite constantly invite us to imitate Mary.  (Circular. No. 3, Agnes Campbell, CND, with Members of the Leadership Team, Dec. 2017)

(Place the words “imitate Mary” on the prayer table.)

All:  Marguerite, pray that we may grow in “imitation of Mary”.  (Pause)

Reader 4: Touched by God when looking at an image of Mary, Marguerite dreamed of living a life like Mary’s.  Mary “never excused herself from any journey on which there was good to be done or some work of charity to be performed” and so Marguerite crossed the Atlantic seven times, nursed those on her ship who caught the plague and went to live with the young women newly arrived in the colony. She kept her community of Sisters uncloistered so they could go where they were needed.

After the death of her son, Mary helped to form the community of the first Christians; Marguerite helped to found Ville-Marie – Mary's city – to be like the early Church. She taught the children and their mothers to read, to sew, to pray. She served the colonists as social worker, mentor, matchmaker and grief counselor. She welcomed native women into her community.  (“Marguerite Bourgeoys:  Dreamer and Pioneer”,

(Place the words “woman of action” on the prayer table.)

All:  Marguerite, pray that we may grow in being  a “woman or man of action” (Pause)

Reader 5:  “When you go on mission, remember that you go at God’s command and in His company.” (MB) It was in the joy of that company that Marguerite lived her life, on the mid-Atlantic, threatened by plague or a leaky ship or enemy warships; in a frontier outpost where the danger from death by diseases or from the constant warfare was always with her and her fellow colonists; throughout harsh winters and hungry springs; when the young sisters of her company who ensured the future died early, or when they were killed in a disastrous fire.  Her heart rejoiced still in God her Savior.  This is her spirit, a mission undertaken in joy—a life lived in joy.  (Marguerite and the Extern Congregation, Mary Virginia Cotter, CND, December 1989)

(Place the word “joy” on the prayer table.)

All:  Marguerite, pray that we may grow in “joy”.  (Pause)

Reader 6:  Marguerite was a person who lived in joy but was also deeply touched by compassion at the sufferings and sorrows of others.  Compassion: suffering with.  She shared the hopes, fears, losses, anxiety and failures of the first colonists.  In sharing with them, she became the Mother of the Colony. But her compassion extended to each person.  Think of the Thibodeaux baby, sick with the Plague, for whom Marguerite risked her life and the lives of the young women she was bringing over to Canada on that trip by bringing the baby into their quarters and caring for it.  Think of the Indian baby whose mother couldn’t care for her, the first of the many Maire-des-Neiges brought up in the Congregation.  Think of the woman whose child was accidentally killed whom Marguerite comforted and whom she defended in the court inquest… Marguerite was the first to hurry down to the dock when word came that 16 young women were arriving from France as brides for some of the unmarried men of the colony.  She cared for and remained with them, taught them to survive in the colony, counselled and encouraged them until compatible marriages could be arranged. Marguerite was always, however busy she became, the person who was always there to help. (“Marguerite and the Extern Congregation”, Virginia Cotter, CND, 1989)

*Place the word “compassion” and “welcome and hospitality” on the prayer table.

All:  Marguerite, pray that we may grow in “compassion and hospitality”.  (Pause)

Reader 7:  How is daring expressed in a life that has a Visitation-Pentecost flavor?  We need daring to open our hearts to others, to groups and communities that are very different than us.  We need daring to try to name the source that gives us life, in a cultural universe so different than the one in which we have been initiated in faith.  We need daring to continue to take action unceasingly, to situate ourselves in life in such a way that we are working to build community, to enrich communion.  We need daring to be open to the Spirit, to remain firm in our commitment to a culture of peace, of non-violence, respect for nature.  We need daring to persist in looking at the world with the eyes of the impoverished, the oppressed, the excluded, to think world, pluralism of cultures, internationality.  (Lorraine Caza, CND, October 2001)

*Pause here and place the word “daring” and “passion” on the prayer table.

All:  Marguerite, pray that we may grow in “daring and passion”.  (Pause)

Quiet Reflection/Suggested Questions for Reflection

  • What words or phrases speak to me in the above readings?
  • Is there a specific attribute of Marguerite’s that you are drawn to and would like to nourish in your life?
  • What might the Gospel passage from John and excerpts about Marguerite and her life teach me about my life and service to others?


Intercessions:  Loving God, hear our prayer.

  1. For all CND Associates, Sisters, and friends and family who are gathered with us for this feast, may we be like Marguerite signs of love and compassion in our world…
  2. For the candidates in Chicago, South Holland, IL, Hayesville, NC, Stamford, CT, and Wilton, CT who are preparing to become CND Associates, we pray….
  3.  And now for your own intentions…..

Closing Prayer:  Gracious God, Giver of all life, may we proclaim your greatness and rejoice in You, our Savior, in all that we do and all that we are.  May we, like Marguerite, desire most ardently and live joyfully “the great precept of the love of God above all things and of the neighbor as oneself”.  May this be written in our hearts!  We ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother.  Amen.

Closing Song Suggestion:  Magnificat (Songs of the Visitation, Kathleen Deignan, CND)

Refrain:  Our being proclaims Your greatness, O God, our spirit finds joy in You.


For You’ve looked on us in our littleness:

Now we are blest.

And You in Your strength do great things for us— Holy Your name.


Your mercy lasts from age to age

for those who seek your love.

The ways of Your power, O Holy One,

confuse the proud of heart.

You put the mighty from their thrones,

raise up the little ones.

You fill the hungry with good things,

the rich go empty away.


For You’ve helped your servant Israel,

remembering Your love,

As You promised to Sarah and Abraham

and their children, love without end.


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