St. Marguerite Bourgeoys

Marguerite was born in Troyes, France, the 6th of 12 children. At the age of 20, she had a conversion experience and believed that she had been called to religious life. However, her applications to the Carmelites and the Poor Clares were not accepted. She joined a local group of women who did charitable work in the community. Several years later, she was invited by the Governor of the French settlement in Canada to establish a school in the colony.

Marguerite established schools which provided education for all – girls, the poor and the natives. Education in her schools included the basics of literacy, religious instruction, home economics and the arts. She established special vocational schools to provide young women with the domestic skills necessary to run a home in the wilderness.

She also was the official guardian of the “filles du roi”, the young orphan girls sent by the King of France to establish new families.  These girls stayed in her home with Marguerite and she served as a matchmaker for them and helped to prepare them for their new life as pioneers. These activities earned her the affectionate nickname of “the Mother of the Colony”.

Marguerite made three return trips to France during which she recruited other women to join her in her educational works. She also received written permission from the King, authorizing the school.

Marguerite established the congregation of Notre-Dame in 1676 but the Rule and constitutions were not approved until 1698. At that time its members professed vows as religious in one of the first uncloistered religious communities in the Catholic Church.

Today the Congregation of Notre-Dame numbers 2600 sisters in North America, Japan, Latin America and the Cameroons in service to the people of God. In our own Diocese, Sister Donna Kelly and Sister Mildred Chabassol  of the Congregation of Notre-Dame serve the parishioners of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Benoit’s Cove.

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