Saint of the Day – 12 January – St Marguerite Bourgeoys C.N.D.- 1620-1700 (aged 79) – Founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame/Teacher/Missionary/Apostle of Charity – Patron against poverty; loss of parents; people rejected by religious orders (Video – Apostleship of Prayer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QJesJSHibw)
Born the sixth of 12 children in Troyes, France, Marguerite 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 (eventually the city of Montreal). She sailed on June 20, 1653, and arrived in Canada in mid-November. When she arrived, the colony numbered 200 people with a hospital and a Jesuit mission chapel.
Marguerite began the construction of a chapel in 1657. It was to honour Our Lady of Good Help. In 1658, she opened her first school. Marguerite realized the need to recruit more teachers. She returned to France in 1659 and returned with four companions. In 1670, she went 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. St. Marguerite herself received the first two Indian women into the congregation.In 1693, Mother Marguerite handed over her congregation to her successor. The new superior was Marie Barbier, 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 the last day of 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. Mother Marguerite had a raging fever. She suffered for twelve days and died on January 12, 1700. She was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II on April 2, 1982.