January 12: St. Marguerite Bourgeoys
Marguerite was born in Troyes, France, on April 17, 1620, but spent most of her eighty years in Montreal, Canada. Marguerite was the sixth of twelve children. Her parents were devout people. When Marguerite was nineteen, her mother died. Marguerite took care of her younger brothers and sisters. Her father died when she was twenty-seven. The family was now raised and Marguerite prayed to know what to do with her life. The governor of Montreal, Canada, was visiting France. He tried to find teachers for the New World. He invited Marguerite to come to Montreal to teach school and religion classes. She said yes.
Marguerite gave away her share of her parents' inheritance to other members of the family. They couldn't believe that she would really leave their civilized country to go to the wilderness an ocean away. But she did. She sailed on June 20, 1653, and arrived in Canada in mid-November. Marguerite began the construction of a chapel in 1657. It was to honor 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.
Throughout her life, Marguerite sought to serve those who needed her. Is there someone in my life who needs my help today?