Grey Nuns

The Grey Nuns is the name commonly given to 6 distinct Roman Catholic religious communities of women, which trace their origins to the original foundation, of the Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général, in Montréal. The Sisters of Charity of Montreal, formerly called The Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général of Montreal and more commonly known as the Grey Nuns of Montreal, is a Canadian religious institute of Roman Catholic religious sisters, founded in 1737 by Saint Marguerite d'Youville, a young widow.[1]

The Sisters of Charity of Montreal
James Duncan Marguerite d Youville
Saint Marguerite d'Youville, in the former habit of the institute
TypeReligious organizations
Legal statusactive
Purposeadvocate and public voice, educator and network
HeadquartersMontreal, Quebec
Region served
Canada, the United States, Colombia, Brazil, Japan, Haiti, Central African Republic, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic
Official language


The congregation was founded when Marguerite d'Youville and three of her friends formed a religious association to care for the poor. They rented a small house in Montreal on 30 October 1738, taking in a small number of destitute persons. On 3 June 1753 the society received royal sanction, which also transferred to them the rights and privileges previously granted by letters patent in 1694 to the Frères Hospitaliers de la Croix et de Saint-Joseph, known after their founder as the Frères Charon. At that time they also took over the work of the bankrupt Frères Charon at the Hôpital Général de Montréal located outside the city walls. (In the seventeenth century, a "general hospital" was an institution that took in old people, the ill, and the poor. Medical care was dispensed at the Hôtel Dieu.)[2]

In 1755 the sisters cared for those stricken during a smallpox epidemic. As the sisters were not cloistered, they could go out to visit the sick. Those assisted included the First Nations people in Oka, who were among the benefactors who later helped rebuild the Hospital after a fire in 1765.[2]

After 1840, the order rapidly expanded, and over the next 100 years became a major provider of health care and other social services throughout Quebec, Western and Northern Canada, and the northern United States.[3] In 1855, the Grey Nuns were called to Toledo, Ohio, to care for many suffering from cholera.


The city residents mocked the nuns by calling them "les grises" – a phrase meaning both "the grey women" and "the drunken women", in reference to the color of their attire and d'Youville's late husband, François-Magdeleine You d’Youville (1700–1730), a notorious bootlegger. Marguerite d'Youville and her colleagues adopted the particular black and beige dress of their religious institute in 1755: despite a lack of grey colour, they kept the nickname.[4] When a Grey Nun worked as a nurse in a hospital, she usually exchanged her taupe habit for a white one.[5] They wore a bonnet instead of a veil, as that was more practical for everyday work.[2]


The rule given to Marguerite d'Youville and her companions by the Sulpician priest, Father Louis Normant de Faradon, P.S.S, in 1745 received episcopal sanction in 1754, when Monseigneur de Pontbriant formed the society into an official religious community. This rule forms the basis of the present constitution, which was approved by Pope Leo XIII on 30 July 1880. Besides the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the sisters pledge themselves to devote their lives to the service of suffering humanity.

Sister communities

Couvent de Deschambault 02
Convent of Deschambault, held by Sisters of Charity of Quebec between 1861 and 1994

The sisters undertook the first mission by a female religious institute to Western Canada in 1844, when a colony of Grey Nuns left their convent in Montreal and travelled to Saint Boniface, on the shore of the Red River.[6] Several sister communities branched off from the Sisters of Charity of Montreal:

Sisters of Charity of Saint-Hyacinthe

In 1840 four Grey Nuns from Montreal founded a community in the rural farming community of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, and soon established the Hotel-Dieu for their health care ministry. They became a separate pontifical congregation in 1896. In response to increased industrialization of the area, in 1864 they founded the workhouse of Saint Geneviève to " procure work for the poor women when they are unable to find any on the outside."[5] The workhouse produced woollen fabric and soap, and provided employment for ten women, fifteen, girls, one man, and three boys. In 1888 the sisters founded the first hospital in Lewiston, Maine.

Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart

The only American congregation of Grey Nuns, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart branched off from the Ottawa congregation in 1921, to establish an independent English-speaking congregation to minister in the United States. They founded D'Youville College in Buffalo, New York. In 1966, the mother house moved to Yardley, Pennsylvania. The sisters serve in a variety of ministries in the East Coast states New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts as well as in Georgia and Alaska.

  • the Sisters of Charity of the Hôtel-Dieu of Nicolet (1886), branched off from Saint-Hyacinthe, united with Montreal (1941)
  • the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa (1845) formerly the Grey Nuns of the Cross
  • the Sisters of Charity of Quebec (1849)

The 21st century

As of 2008 the various Grey Nun branches operate in Canada, the United States, Colombia, Brazil, Japan, Haiti, Central African Republic, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic.[7][8]


They once operated a number of major hospitals in Canada; as provincial governments and church, authorities moved to standardize both ownership and operation of hospitals, many of these hospitals passed into the hands of Church corporations (or, in some cases, governmental organizations) and the Grey Nuns changed focus. The Grey Nuns' Hospital building built in 1765 in Montreal was designated a national Historic Site of Canada in 1973 to commemorate the Grey Nuns.[9] In 2011, Grey Nuns Motherhouse, the former motherhouse of the Grey Nuns in Montreal, now part of Concordia University, was also designated a National Historic Site.[10]


They now operate shelters for battered women (with and without children), shelters for women in need, clothing and food dispensaries, centres for the disabled, and some health care facilities. St. Boniface General Hospital in Winnipeg is still owned by the Grey Nuns; hospitals previously owned, operated, or enlarged by the institute include the former Holy Cross Hospital in Calgary,[11] St. Paul's Hospital in Saskatoon,[12] and the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton.[13] Many of these health care institutions were founded by missionary nuns sent out from convents in Quebec and Ontario.[13]

Other works

Grey Nuns may work with the incarcerated.[8] Some chapters are also dedicated to peace and justice; at least one chapter, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, has declared its properties a nuclear-free zone.[14]

Classification as religious sisters

Although the institute's informal name contains the word "nuns", members are actually classified by the Roman Catholic Church as religious sisters, as they are not cloistered and belong to a congregation, not an order. They no longer wear their distinctive habit and now wear street clothes.[8]


In 1993 it was estimated that there were just under 3,000 Grey Nuns in Canada, mainly in Quebec and Ontario.[6] By 2013 they will vacate their Mother House in downtown Montreal, after having sold the property to Concordia University in 2005.[15] As of 2014 there were about 136 nuns in the Montreal congregation, whose average age was around 85.[3] The Quebec congregation has not recruited any new members since before 2000. Sister Bernadette said the nuns' legacy will live on in other ways.[16]

Statue to the Grey Nuns, Quebec City


  1. ^ Marie–Marguerite d'Youville at the Vatican Liturgy of Saints Project Archived 27 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  2. ^ a b c "History", The Grey Nuns of Montreal"
  3. ^ a b Green, Rupert Everett. "Dwindling Grey Nuns leave downtown Montreal convent after more than a century", The Globe and Mail, 14 January 2014
  4. ^ "Our 'Colorful' Name", Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart
  5. ^ a b Hudson, Susan. The Quiet Revolutionaries: How the Grey Nuns Changed the Social Welfare Paradigm of Lewiston, Maine, Routledge, 2013 ISBN 9781135519599
  6. ^ a b "Grey Nuns", Canadian Encyclopedia Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  7. ^ Grey Nuns ministries worldwide Archived 1 August 2012 at Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  8. ^ a b c Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart Ministries. Retrieved 26 August 2008. Archived 9 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Grey Nuns' Hospital. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  10. ^ Mother House of the Grey Nuns of Montreal. Directory of Federal Heritage Designations. Parks Canada. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  11. ^ University of Calgary Library Special Collection article on Holy Cross School of Nursing. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  12. ^ Saskatoon Health Region article on St. Paul's Hospital. Retrieved 26 August 2008. Archived 2 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ a b Alberta Heritage article on Grey Nuns. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  14. ^ Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart mission. Retrieved 26 August 2008. Archived 9 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Peretz, Ingrid (24 December 2008). "Montreal nuns moving – with saint's remains". Globe and Mail. Canada. Retrieved 24 December 2008.
  16. ^ CBC: Grey Nuns leave motherhouse for Concordia University takeover

Further reading

  • The Grey Nuns and the Red River Settlement by Dennis King. Toronto: Book Society of Canada, 1980. ISBN 978-0-7725-5294-5
  • Mother d'Youville, First Canadian Foundress by Albertine-Ferland Angers. Montreal: Sisters of Charity of Montreal, Grey Nuns, 2000. ISBN 2-920965-05-0

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Grey Nuns of the Cross" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.

Concordia University Library

Concordia University Library is the library system at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Concordia University has two library locations, the R. Howard Webster Library located in the J.W. McConnell Building of the Sir George Williams Campus and the Georges P. Vanier Library located at the Loyola Campus. On September 2, 2014, the Library opened the Grey Nuns Reading Room, a silent study space for Concordia students located in the former Chapel of the Invention of the Holy Cross. The Reading Room has seating for 192 students, with an additional 42 chairs in small reading rooms. A student of Political Science was the first to enter.The Concordia University Library houses several special collections including the Azrieli Holocaust Collection and the Irving Layton Collection. Most Special Collections are located in the Vanier Library. The Library also maintains the University's institutional repository, Spectrum.The Concordia University Library is a member of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. Concordia University Library also has partnerships with the Canadian Research Knowledge Network and The Data Liberation Initiative.Since 1990, Concordia University Library has been hosting an annual public holiday auction, held every December, where all proceeds go to over 10 Montreal-based charities. The fund-raising event is planned and run wholly by the Library staff, also featuring a bazaar and pot luck lunch.

Convent Crash

The Convent Crash, also known as the Orléans air disaster and Villa St. Louis disaster, occurred on May 15, 1956, after a CF-100 fighter jet crashed into the Villa St. Louis in the community of Orléans, Ontario. 15 people were killed in the crash: 11 members of the Grey Nuns, two aviators, a civilian servant at the Villa and the chaplain, a retired naval padre.

Grey Nuns' Hospital

The Grey Nuns' Hospital (also known as Hôpital général des frères Charron) was a hospital in Montreal, Quebec, Canada that operated from 1695 to 1880. It is located south of Place d'Youville and west of Rue Saint-Pierre.

Grey Nuns (disambiguation)

Grey Nuns may refer to:

Grey Nuns Community Hospital, an acute care hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Grey Nuns Hospital (now Pasqua Hospital), a hospital in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Grey Nuns' Hospital, a hospital that operated from 1695 to 1880 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Grey Nuns Motherhouse, a Concordia University residence in Montreal

Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a national institute founded in the United States by Mother Mary Frances Clarke

Grey Nuns Community Hospital

The Grey Nuns Community Hospital is an acute care hospital located in the Mill Woods area of south Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The Grey Nuns Community Hospital provides a full range of services including a 24-hour Emergency Department. The 14-bed tertiary palliative care unit is known for its delivery of care and teaching practices. The hospital traces its roots to the Grey Nuns of Montreal who sent Sister Emery (Zoe LeBlanc), Adel Lamy and Alphonse (Marie Jacques) to the Edmonton area in 1859.

Grey Nuns Hospital

Grey Nuns Hospital may refer to one of several hospitals established by the Grey Nuns in Canada, including:

Grey Nuns Community Hospital, an acute care hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Grey Nuns Hospital (now Pasqua Hospital), a hospital in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Grey Nuns' Hospital, a hospital that operated from 1695 to 1880 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Grey Nuns Motherhouse

Grey Nuns Motherhouse, now known as the Grey Nuns Building, is a former motherhouse of the Grey Nuns located at 1190 Guy Street, in the Borough of Ville-Marie, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. It is also named Grey Nuns Hospital of Montréal (not to be confused with Grey Nuns' Hospital located south of Place d'Youville). The building was completed in 1871.In 2007, it was bought by Concordia University and refurbished. It now serves as co-ed housing for 598 undergraduate students on the Sir George Williams Campus within the neighbourhood redevelopment project Quartier Concordia.A crypt containing the graves of 276 nuns and other individuals is located in the basement. Among them was Mother Marie-Marguerite d'Youville, the first native-born Canadian to be declared a saint. In 2010 her remains were removed and relocated to her 1701 birthplace of Varennes, a community on the South Shore.In 2011, it was designated one of the National Historic Sites of Canada.

Grey Nuns stop

Grey Nuns stop is a tram stop under construction in the Edmonton Light Rail Transit network in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It will serve the Valley Line, and is located on the east side of 66 Street, north of 31 Avenue NW, between Kameyosek and Tawa. The stop is scheduled to open in 2020.

Hillview, Edmonton

Hillview is a residential neighbourhood in the Mill Woods area of south Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It is located in the Woodvale area of Mill Woods.

The neighbourhood was largely developed during the 1970s and early 1980s. It was during this time that 87% of the neighbourhood residences were constructed.Just over half (54%) of the residences in the neighbourhood are single-family dwellings. Another quarter (24%) are row houses. Apartments constitute another 16% with duplexes accounting for 5% of all residences. According to the 2005 municipal census, 68% of residences were owner occupied with the remainder being rented.The average household size in Hillview is 2.9 persons. Just under half (47%) of residences have one or two persons. Approximately one in five households (19%) have three persons, and almost one in three households (30%) have four or five persons.There are two schools in the neighbourhood. The Hillview Elementary School is operated by the Edmonton Public School System, while the John Paul I Catholic Elementary School is operated by the Edmonton Catholic School System.

The Grey Nuns Community Hospital is located to the south in the adjoining neighbourhood of Tawa. On the far side of Tawa is Mill Woods Town Centre.

Hillview is bounded on the west by 66 Street, on the east by 50 Street, on the south by 34 Avenue, and on the north by 38 Avenue.

The community is represented by the Woodvale Community League, established in 1980.

List of airports in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region

The following active airports serve the Edmonton Metropolitan Region in Alberta, Canada:

Communities in parentheses () indicates the airport is not in a community.

Marie-Clotilde Raizenne

Marie-Clotilde Raizenne (April 12, 1766 – August 21, 1829) was a Roman Catholic nun in the Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général of Montreal and an educator. She took the name Sister Marie de l’Incarnation and founded the Congregation de l’Enfant-Jésus.

The daughter of Jean-Baptiste-Jérôme Raizenne and Marie-Charlotte Sabourin, she was born at Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes and attended the mission school there. In 1785, she joined the Grey Nuns at the Hôpital Général of Montreal. She was named sacristan and later treasurer. In 1821, Raizenne was named assistant to the superior. In 1821, Bishop Alexander Macdonell invited the Grey Nuns to establish a school for girls in Upper Canada. Although the nuns refused this offer, Raizenne was interested and, in 1828, was released from the Grey Nuns by Bishop Bernard-Claude Panet. Because she was French-speaking, she decided to establish the school in Sandwich (later Windsor) in the Western District. By July 1929, the school had been established with 50 students and several candidates for the new order had been identified.However, Raizenne died in Sandwich a few weeks later and the order's novices went elsewhere so, in the end, she was the first and only member of the congregation.Her aunt Marie Raizenne was a superior in the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal.

Marie-Marguerite d'Youville

Saint Marguerite d'Youville (French pronunciation: ​[maʁɡʁit djuvil]; October 15, 1701 – December 23, 1771) was a French Canadian widow who founded the Order of Sisters of Charity of Montreal, commonly known as the Grey Nuns of Montreal. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II of the Roman Catholic Church in 1990, the first native-born Canadian to be declared a saint.

Quartier Concordia

Quartier Concordia is a neighbourhood redevelopment project centred on Concordia University's Sir George Williams campus in downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Bordered by Sherbrooke Street, Saint-Mathieu Street, René Lévesque Boulevard and Bishop Street, the district is designed to be a green urban campus that will improve the use and quality of public places and spaces, student life on campus and transportation.As part of the redesign, the small Norman Bethune Square has been redesigned and enlarged. Sidewalks in the area will also be widened, with additional trees.Within the area is Grey Nuns Motherhouse, a student residence.

As of September 2010, an underground tunnel links the university's Hall and J.W. McConnell buildings with the Guy-Concordia metro station. The hallway was completed in Spring 2010. However, a project to create a green space on Mackay Street has been put on hold.

Ralph Nattrass

Ralph William Nattrass (May 26, 1925 – April 30, 2014) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player who played 223 games in the National Hockey League. He would play all of his NHL career with the Chicago Black Hawks (1946–47 to 1949–50). In 2014, Nattress died at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta.

Rural Municipality of St. François Xavier

St. François Xavier is a rural municipality lying west-northwest of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. It is part of the Central Plains Region while also being part of the Winnipeg Capital Region. It had a population of 1,411 in the 2016 census.

St. François Xavier became a municipality in 1880. It has a rich native history that includes legend. The common name often used for the area, White Horse Plain arises from the most famous of the legends. Also, the Grey Nuns are woven into the fabric of the areas history. They had an educational and religious presence there for 118 years, ending their involvement in 1968.

The focal point for the RM was the community of St. François Xavier which was established in 1824 by Reverend Father Boucher.

Sisters of Saint Elizabeth

Sisters of Saint Elizabeth - a Roman Catholic religious institute. Generally styled "Grey Nuns" (to be distinguished from the Grey Nuns of Montreal).

St. Paul's Hospital (Saskatoon)

St. Paul's Hospital is a public hospital at 20th Street and Avenue P in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. St. Paul's works with the Saskatchewan Health Authority in an interdependent partnership. The hospital is owned by the Saskatchewan Catholic Health Corporation and was founded by the Grey Nuns.

St. Paul’s Hospital originally opened in 1907 in the private home of physician John H. C. Willoughby due to an outbreak of typhoid while the Canadian Pacific Railway was building a bridge in Saskatoon with the assistance of the Grey Nuns. The current hospital opened in 1913. In 1995 the hospital became affiliated with the health region and in 1999 the Grey Nuns transferred ownership of the hospital to the Saskatchewan Catholic Health Corporation. It is home to the Saskatchewan Transplant Program.

Tawa, Edmonton

Tawa is a residential neighbourhood in the Mill Woods area of south Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It is a newer neighbourhood, with most of the development occurring in the early 1990s. The Grey Nuns Community Hospital is located in the neighbourhood as is the Edmonton Police Service's South East Division Station.

Tawa is bounded on the north by 34 Avenue, on the south by 28 Avenue, on the west by 66 Street, and on the east by 50 Street.

Élodie Mailloux

Élodie Mailloux (9 February 9, 1865 – 27 December 1937) was the founding director of the first nursing school in Canada to offer instruction to lay people in the French language. The École des Hospitalières et Gardes-Malades de l'Hôpital Notre-Dame, was founded in 1897.

Baptized Marie-Mélodie, she was the daughter of Magloire and Rosalie Langlois. During the Quebec diaspora her parents emigrated to Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1867. On completion of her studies there at the Couvent Jésus-Marie, she became a novice in the Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général of Montreal, Quebec, after which she took her vows in 1887.After working as a bursar for the Grey Nuns, in 1894 she became a nurse at a hospital run by the congregation in Toledo, Ohio, where in 1896 she set up the Grey Nuns' first nursing school. Subsequently, she organized the first French-language nursing school in Canada in 1897, at the École des Hospitalières et Gardes-Malades de l'Hôpital Notre-Dame. She was director of the nursing school (1898–1902), head nurse (1897–99), superior at Notre-Dame Hospital (1899–1902), assistant general of the Grey Nuns (1902–1907), superior of the vicairie of Ville-Marie (1907–1915), bursar general (1915–1925), and superior in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1925–26).


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