Catherine de Longpre was born at Saint Saveur near Cherbourg in France. Catherin family was devout Catholics and she was baptized the very day she was born. Her grandparents were very good examples because of their true love and care of the poor.
Catherine watched wide-eyed as her grandmother invited a handicapped beggar into her home. She offered him a bath, clean clothes and a delicious meal. As Catherine and her grandparents sat around the fire that night, they prayed the Our Father out loud. They thanked God for his blessings.
Because there was no hospital in their small French town, the sick were nursed back to health in the home of Catherine's grandparents. Catherine began to realize that sickness and suffering take patience. She was just a little girl but she prayed to ask Jesus to make people suffer less.
When she was still quite young, she joined the convent of Sisters of St. Augustine. The sisters who took care of the sick in hospitals were called Hospitaller Sisters of the Mercy of Jesus. Her older sister took her vows and became a nun the day Catherine entered the convent.
In 1648, Cathereine listened to the missionary priests begging sisters to come to New France or Canada. Catherine's sister was chosen to be one of the first of their order to go as a missionary to Canada. Sister Catherine was just sixteen, but she begged to be chosen too. She pronounced her vows on May 4, 1648. Then she sailed for Canada the next day. It was the day before her sixteenth birthday.
Her parents were very distressed. Her father even presented a petition in the courts to stop her. Because Catherine was very affectionate by nature, she felt an extreme gratitude and tenderness for their concern. But she had made up her mind to live and die in Canada in service to the poor and sick. Years later, her farther had a change of heart and supported her.
Life was hard in Quebec, Canada but Sister Catherine loved the people. The Indians were very grateful for her cheerful ways. She cooked and cared for the sick in the order's poor hospital building. But Sister Catherine learned about fear, too.
The Iroquois Indians were killing people and burning villages. She prayed to St. John Brebeuf, one of the Jesuit priests who had just been killed by the Iroquois in 1649. She asked him to help her be true to her calling. She heard him speaking in her heart, telling her to remain.
Food was not enough and the winters were terribly cold. Some of the sisters could not take the hard life and constant fear of death and they returned to France. Sister Catherine was afraid, too. Sometimes she could hardly pray. And while she smiled at all the dear people she cared for in the sick wards, she grew sad.
But she made a promise never to leave Canada and to remain, performing her works of charity until death. She was just twenty-two years old when she made that vow. Despite the hard pioneer life of the French colony, more people came. The Church grew. God blessed the new land with more missionaries.
In 1665, Sister Catherine became the novice mistress of her community. She kept up her life of prayer and hospital ministry until her death. Sister Marie Catherine of St. Augustine died on May 8, 1668. She was thirty-six years old. She was declared "blessed" by Pope John Paul II in 1989.
Jesus never promised us that our lives would be easy and without pain. But he did promise to be with us always. We pray that we may learn to trust him completely.