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October 31: Anniversary of the Canonization of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys

Michelle Renaud

On October 31, 1982, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Marguerite Bourgeoys a saint, something popular devotion had already confirmed in January 1700 in this way: “If the saints were canonized today as they were in the olden times, by the voice of the people and of the clergy, tomorrow we would celebrate the Mass of Saint Marguerite of Canada[1].” “The Pope of families” recognized in Canada’s first saint his own conviction that the family is the vital unit of society and the first school of life for men and women. In the homily pronounced on the day of the canonization of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, he brought to light “her unique contribution to the promotion of families, children, future spouses, parents[2].”

Because she wanted to ensure the strength and happiness of families, Marguerite dedicated the Congrégation de Notre-Dame to the education of girls – those of the families of the French settlers as well as those of the Amerindian tribes. She prepared them for their roles as wives and mothers through comprehensive education: “Of course, they needed to be formed in faith, piety, Christian life and the apostolate, but they also needed to be taught domestic skills and household tasks. These things would enable them to sustain themselves from the product of their labour, and, most importantly, whether rich or poor, would give them the ability to organize and embellish their home life. Civility and intellectual formation were also part of the program. The result was that girls were almost better educated than boys – at that time, a precursory and rare indication of a real advancement of women[3].” Another sign which showed that Marguerite Bourgoeys’s pedagogy was ahead of its time was that she would not allow her Congregation to be cloistered; “she preferred to have schools in the field, close to the people, always open to the presence and the suggestions of parents.[4]

 

[1] Patricia Simpson, Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, 1665-1700, McGill-Queens’ University Press, Montreal, 2005, p. 208.

2 Homily of Pope John Paul II, (Translated from the French) October 31, 1982, page consulted October 28, 2014, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/homilies/1982/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19821031_canonizzazioni_fr.html

3 Ibid.

4Ibid.

 

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