Today we celebrate one of the early heroines of the Church in New France: Marie Guyart (October 28, 1599-April 30, 1672) was born in the city of Tours, France. Though drawn to religious life, she married at 17 to Claude Martin and at 18 had a son, also Claude. Shortly after, her husband died in bankruptcy. She and her son lived with her sister and brother-in-law for almost ten years during part of which she acted as manager of her brother-in-law's company.
In 1631 Marie left her 11-year-old son in the care of her sister and joined the Ursuline monastery in Tours, taking the name Marie de l'Incarnation. Marie felt that she was obeying God in making this move; her family, including her son, felt that she was abandoning her maternal responsibilities.
In the monastery, Marie read the Jesuit Relations, letters sent from "New France" by members of the Society of Jesus working as missionaries in Canada. She began to think about doing missionary work herself, but for an enclosed nun it seemed an impossibility. At the same time, however, Jesuits were working with French bishops and wealthy lay people to sponsor the first religious houses of women to be established in Quebec, founded in 1608. Marie volunteered, and in 1639 left France for the three-month voyage to Quebec with two other Ursulines and three Augustinian nuns: the Ursulines to found a school, the Augustinians a hospital.
In order to teach Native Americans in Quebec, Marie had to learn their languages; she would later write dictionaries and texts in those languages (works that are lost). She spent 18 years as superior, dealing with French and Native American leaders. Marie wrote fund-raising letters to "ladies of rank" in France, reports to the Jesuits and to the Ursulines at Tours and elsewhere, and letters to her son, Claude, who had joined a monastery in France. Over 270 of these have survived apparently but a small part of the total.
In 1654, Marie at the direction of her confessor authored a Relation, an account of her spiritual life, her "autobiography", but only the letters tell us about the last 18 years of her life.
Five years after her death Claude Martin published La Vie de la venerable Mere Marie de l'Incarnation, a biography which included the 1654 Relation; part of an earlier spiritual Relation, written in France in 1633 and extracts from her letters.
Pope John Paul II beatified her on June 22, 1980.
These days, two priests newly-arrived members of a Nigerian religious foundation--the Society of Mary, Mother of Mercy--devoted to education and care of the sick are staying with us as they prepare to adapt themselves to parish ministry and the service of God's people in our Archdiocese. Fathers Sylvanus and Alban, SMMM are gradually adjusting. Please pray that they will be well-received and be able to make a positive contribution to the life of faith here in Canada.