A Canadian Woman Who Served

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 Maguerite 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.

Family Tree of Gaspard Boucher, Father of Pierre Boucher, Great-Grandfather of Marguerite

In the museum, we American descendants found our ancestor Timothy on this Family Tree of Gaspard Boucher, Father of Pierre Boucher, Great-Grandfather of Marguerite.

Marguerite’s father died when she was seven years old. Four years later, Marguerite went to the Ursaline 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.

Ursaline Convent, Quebec City

Ursaline Convent, Quebec City

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.

Francois d'Youville, Marguerite's Husband

Francois d’Youville, Marguerite’s Husband

Items Belonging to Marguerite

These items belonged to Marguerite during her marriage.

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.

Marguerite and companions take secret vows.

Marguerite and companions take secret vows.

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.

Hospital

Former Hospital, Which Houses the Museum

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.

Grey Nun Habit, Designed by Marguerite d'Youville

Grey Nun Habit, Designed by Marguerite d’Youville

Marguerite and her companions took care of Amerindians when they suffered a small pox epidemic.

Caring for Amerindians

Caring for Amerindians

Sewing Box Made by Amerindians

Sewing Box Made in an Amerindian Style

They took care of soldiers during the French and Indian War.

Caring for Soldiers

Caring for Soldiers

And they took in abandoned babies, forming the first orphanage in Canada.

Marguerite founded the first orphanage in Canada.

Marguerite founded 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.

Biographies of Marguerite d'Youville

Biographies of Marguerite d’Youville

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.
Psalm 82:3-4


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