Lives of the Saints

Our Models and Protectors

January 12
  January 19

Saint Margaret Bourgeoys

Foundress
(1620-1700)

Saint Margaret Bourgeoys
Saint Margaret Bourgeoys

Saint Margaret Bourgeoys was born in Troyes, France, on Good Friday, April 17, 1620. She was prepared by Divine Providence, over a period of many years, for her future mission. When she was twenty years old, Margaret saw the Blessed Virgin who looked at her during a procession, and smiled at her. From that time on, she abandoned all ornaments and amusements common to her age and entered into a sodality of the Children of Mary, of which she became the President. Ten years later, on the Feast of the Assumption the Child Jesus, in appearance about three years old, made Himself seen by her in the Sacred Host of the monstrance. He kindled in her heart bright flames of divine charity, and inspired in her a great contempt for all earthly goods, with an unquenchable thirst for souls.

In 1653, when she was thirty-three years old, Margaret Bourgeoys set sail for Canada. The Virgin said to her: Go, I will not abandon you. Four years passed before she could undertake the Christian education of children. In the meantime, her charity was lavished on all; she visited and served the sick, buried the dead, consoled the afflicted, taught catechism to the colonists. From then on, her task would be to form and direct a non-cloistered religious community dedicated to teaching. In 1658 she laid the foundations of her Congregation of Notre Dame Sisters by opening the first school of Ville-Marie (Montreal), in a stable offered by Monsieur de Maisonneuve. She soon found co-workers, whom she initiated for their work. The little schools of New France began to spring up on every hill and in every valley.

The social work of Mother Bourgeoys is no less admirable than her educational labors. Her dedication extended to the service of the many young households of those days. She took in, guided and directed the Daughters of the King, sent to be married to the colonists, inculcating in them a sense of the serious duties of a spouse and mother. She remained their counselor for long years, to whom they always turned for comfort and encouragement in the practice of virtue. The ingeniousness of Margaret became evident from her many varied projects: a workshop for young girls and married women, a vocational school for the formation of her companions in education, the Work of the Tabernacles which she founded with the recluse Jeanne Leber; a pious association for young girls.

After 47 years of labors blessed by heaven and the Blessed Virgin, Margaret Bourgeoys died, at the age of eighty, with the reputation of a soul eminent in sanctity. In a solemn ceremony at Saint Peter's in Rome on November 12, 1950, Pius XII declared her Blessed. Since then she has received the honors of canonization.