"...In particular, she [Marguerite] contributed to building up that new country [Canada], realizing the determining role of women, and she diligently strove toward their formation in a deeply Christian spirit."
Pope John Paul II at the canonization Mass further noted that she watched over her students with affection and confidence "in order to prepare them to become wives and worthy mothers, Christians, cultured, hardworking, radiant mothers."
Marguerite Bourgeoys, born the sixth of 12 children in Troyes, France, at the age of 20 believed that she was called to religious life. Her applications to the Carmelites and Poor Clares were unsuccessful. A priest friend suggested that perhaps God had other plans for her.
In 1654, the governor of the French settlement in Canada visited his sister, an Augustinian canoness in Troyes. Marguerite belonged to a sodality connected to that convent. The governor invited her to come to Canada and start a school in Ville-Marie (now the city of Montreal). When she arrived, the colony numbered 200 people with a hospital and a Jesuit mission chapel.
Soon after starting a school, she realized her need for coworkers. Returning to Troyes, she recruited a friend, Catherine Crolo, and two other young women. In 1667 they added classes at their school for Indian children.
A second trip to France three years later resulted in six more young women and a letter from King Louis XIV, authorizing the school. The Congregation of Notre Dame was established in 1676 but its members did not make formal religious profession until 1698 when their Rule and constitutions were approved.
Marguerite established a school for Indian girls in Montreal. At the age of 69, she walked from Montreal to Quebec in response to the bishop’s request to establish a community of her sisters in that city. By the time she died, she was referred to as the “Mother of the Colony.”
Children from European as well as Native American backgrounds in seventeenth-century Canada benefited from her great zeal and unshakable trust in God’s providence. Marguerite was canonized in 1982.
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« Si la prière ne part pas du cœur, elle n’est qu’un songe qui ne produit rien, car la prière doit être dans la pensée, la parole et l’exécution. » – Sainte Marguerite Bourgeoys
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Bishops Young and Old
Today I will be in London, Ontario to take part in the episcopal ordination in St. Peter's Cathedral of William Terrence McGrattan as titular bishop of Furnos Minor and auxiliary bishop of Toronto.
Tomorrow, in Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral there will be the historic ordination of the first Asian-born bishop in Canada, His Excellency Vincent Nguyen, titular bishop of Ammaedara and auxiliary bishop of Toronto.
At his ordination, Bishop Nguyen also will become Canada's youngest bishop at the age of 43.
Coincidentally, today Canada's oldest bishop (who celebrated 65 years of priestly ordination and 45 years of episcopal consecration in 2009), turns 95.
Mgr Joseph-Aurele Plourde (8th bishop and 7th archbishop of Ottawa [1967-1989], though frail, continues to delight in life and news of the church, plays bridge several times a week and otherwise keeps busy at the Jean-Paul II Residence in Ottawa.
To each of them I offer the traditional wish, ad multos et faustissimos annos!