FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY
Feast: October 16 (Canada)
15 October 1701, Varennes, Quebec
23 December 1771, Montreal, Canada
9 December 1990, by Pope John Paul II
Chapel of St. Marie Marguerite d'Youville, near Montreal
Against death of children, difficult marriages, in-law problems, loss of parents, opposition of Church authorities, people ridiculed for piety, victims of adultery, victims of unfaithfulness, widows
MARGUERITE d'YOUVILLE, the first native Canadian to be elevated to sainthood, was born October 15, 1701 at Varennes, Quebec. She was the eldest of six children born to Christophe Dufrost de Lajemmerais and Marie-Renée Gaultier. Her father died when she was seven years old leaving this family of six in great poverty. It was only through the influence of her great grandfather, Pierre Boucher, that she was enabled to study for two years at the Ursulines in Quebec. Upon her return home, she became an invaluable support to her mother and undertook the education of her brothers and sisters. She married François d'Youville in 1722 and the young couple made their home with his mother who made life miserable for her daughter-in-law. She soon came to realize that her husband had no interest in making a home life. His frequent absences and illegal liquor trading with the Indians caused her great suffering. She was pregnant with her sixth child when François became seriously ill. She faithfully cared for him until his death in 1730. By age 29, she had experienced desperate poverty and suffered the loss of her father and husband. Four of her six children had died in infancy. In all these sufferings Marguerite grew in her belief of God's presence in her life and of his tender love for every human person. She undertook many charitable works with complete trust in God, whom she loved as a Father. She provided for the education of her two sons, who later became priests, and she welcomed a blind woman into her home. Marguerite was soon joined by three young women who shared her love and concern for the poor. On December 31, 1737, they consecrated themselves to God and promised to serve him in the person of the poor. Marguerite, without even realizing it, had become the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, "Grey Nuns". She persevered in caring for the poor despite many obstacles. She was in weakened health and mourning the death of one of her companions when a fire destroyed their home. This only served to deepen her commitment to the poor. On February 2, 1745, she and her two early companions pledged themselves to put everything in common in order to help a greater number of persons in need. Two years later, this "mother of the poor" as she was called, was asked to become director of the Charon Brothers Hospital in Montreal which was falling into ruin. She and her sisters rebuilt the hospital and cared for those in most desperate human misery. With the help of her sisters and their lay collaborators, Marguerite laid the foundation for service to the poor of a thousand faces. In 1765 a fire destroyed the hospital but nothing could destroy Marguerite's faith and courage. At the age of 64 she undertook the reconstruction of this shelter for those in need. Totally exhausted from a lifetime of self-giving, Marguerite died on December 23, 1771 and will always be remembered as a loving mother who served Jesus Christ in the poor.
Pope John XXIII beatified Marguerite on May 3, 1959 and called her "Mother of Universal Charity." She was canonized by Pope John Paul II, December 9, 1990.