Yesterday morning Ray and I gathered with other members of the Nashville, Tennessee-based, Timothé de Montbrun Heritage Society at the Maison de Mère d’Youville (Museum of Marguerite d’Youville) for our first activity in Boucherville, Quebec. Like my ancestor Timothy Demonbruen (names and other words were spelled in a variety of ways in early American and Canadian history), Marguerite d’Youville was a great-grandchild of Pierre Boucher, one of the early French settlers of New France, now Quebec, Canada. I knew almost nothing about Marguerite before touring the museum yesterday morning, but I left the museum with great respect for her work among the poor and needy.
Marguerite was born on October 15, 1701, and was placed on the knee of her great-grandfather Pierre Boucher.
Marguerite’s father died when she was seven years old. Four years later, her great-grandfather Pierre Boucher sent Marguerite to the Ursuline Monastery in Quebec City (which we hope to tour next week) and spent two years studying there. When she returned home, she helped her mother, helped to educate her siblings, and learned homemaking skills.
Marguerite married the wealthy François d’Youville two months before her twenty-first birthday. Marguerite gave birth to six children, but only two survived to adulthood. The marriage was difficult, partly because her husband was away often, selling alcohol illegally to Amerindians. Her husband died when Marguerite was only 28 years old, leaving her expecting a seventh child.
The widowed Marguerite became a great servant of the poor. When she was in her late 30s, she and three other women, who also took special interest in the poor, secretly made vows similar to those taken by a nun. They were unable to do so openly because the king of France would not allow it. He wanted French Canadian women to marry and have many children to help populate the new country.
When Marguerite was forty-six years old, she took over a hospital in Montreal. That hospital was the location of the museum we toured yesterday.
Eventually, the king of France did allow Marguerite and those who worked with her to become nuns. She chose the costume below for them to wear. They came to be called the Grey Nuns.
Marguerite and her companions took care of Amerindians when they suffered a small pox epidemic.
They took care of soldiers during the French and Indian War.
And they took in abandoned babies, forming the first orphanage in Canada.
Marguerite was a good business woman and managed the financial affairs of the Grey Nuns well. She also reared her two sons to adulthood. Many biographies have been written about Marguerite. The first was written by one of her sons.
Maguerite died about two months following her seventieth birthday. In 1990 Pope John Paul II canonized her. She was the first person born in Canada to be honored in that way.
Vindicate the weak and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.