Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys
Marguerite was born in France, and was the sixth of twelve children. Her parents were devout people and lived holy lives. When Marguerite was nineteen, her mother died. She took care of her younger brothers and sisters. Her father then died when she was twenty-seven.
When the family was raised, Marguerite prayed to know what to do with her life. The governor of Montreal, Canada, was visiting France. He was looking for teachers and he invited Marguerite to come to Montreal to teach school and religion classes. She said yes.
Marguerite gave away all her belongings to other members of the family. They couldn't believe that she would really leave their civilized country to go to a wild new country across the ocean.
She set sail on June 20, 1653, and arrived in Canada in mid-November. Marguerite began the construction of a chapel in honor Our Lady of Good Help in 1657. Then in 1658, she opened her first school.
Marguerite needed the help of more teachers. She returned to France in 1659 and returned with four companions. In 1670, she returned to France again and brought back six companions. These brave women became the first sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame.
St. Marguerite and her sisters helped people in the colony survive when food was scarce. They opened a vocational school and taught young people how to run a home and farm.
St. Marguerite's congregation was growing. By 1681 there were eighteen sisters. Seven were Canadian. They opened more missions and two sisters taught at the Indian mission. Marguerite herself received the first two Indian women into the congregation.
When Mother Marguerite was seventy three years old, she handed over her congregation to the new superior Marie Barbier, who the first Canadian to join the order. St. Marguerite's religious rule was approved by the Church in 1698.
Marguerite spent her last few years praying and writing an autobiography. On December 31, 1699, a young sister lay dying. Mother Marguerite asked the Lord to take her life in exchange.
By the morning of January 1, 1700, the sister was completely well and Mother Marguerite had a very high fever. She suffered for twelve days and died on January 12, 1700.