Marguerite Bourgeoys

Marguerite Bourgeoys, C.N.D. (17 April 1620–12 January 1700), was a French nun and founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal in the colony of New France, now part of Québec, Canada. Born in Troyes, she traveled to Fort Ville-Marie (now Montreal) by 1653. There she developed the convent and educated young girls, the poor, and children of First Nations until shortly before her death at the turn of the 18th century. She is also significant for developing one of the first uncloistered religious communities in the Catholic Church.[3] Declared "venerable" by the pope in 1878, she was canonized in 1982 and declared a saint by the Catholic Church.

Marguerite Bourgeoys
Portrait de Marguerite Bourgeoys
Portrait by Pierre Le Ber (1700)
Foundress of the Congregation of Notre Dame
Born17 April 1620
Troyes, Champagne,
Kingdom of France[1]
Died12 January 1700 (aged 79)
Fort Ville-Marie, New France,
French Colonial Empire[1]
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church (Canada and the United States), Anglican Church of Canada
Beatified12 November 1950 by Pope Pius XII
Canonized31 October 1982, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
Major shrineNotre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Feast12 January
Patronageagainst poverty; loss of parents; people rejected by religious orders[2]
Portrait by Antoine Plamondon, probably painted in the 1840s

Early life

Marguerite Bourgeoys was born in Troyes, then in the ancient Province of Champagne in the Kingdom of France, on 17 April 1620. The daughter of Abraham Bourgeoys and Guillemette Garnier, she was the seventh of their thirteen children.[4] Marguerite came from a middle-class and socially connected background, as her father was a candle maker and coiner at the royal mint in the town. Her father died when she was very young, and her mother when Marguerite was 19.

As a girl, Bourgeoys was never much interested in joining the confraternity of the Congregation Notre-Dame attached to the monastery in town. It had been founded in 1597 by the Blessed Alix Le Clerc, C.R.S.A., dedicated to the education of the poor. The canonesses of the monastery helped the poor, but remained cloistered. They were not allowed to teach outside the cloister. To reach poor young girls who could not afford to board within the cloister as students, they relied upon a sodality, whose members they would educate in both religion and pedagogy. On 7 October 1640, during a procession in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, Bourgeoys decided to dedicate herself to God and to live imitating the Virgin Mary.

She supported the education of children (and especially girls), with courage and independence. Given the early deaths of her parents, her life was difficult. But she decided at about age 15 to join the sodality affiliated with the Congregation.[5] Later on, Marguerite became well known as a lecturer.

in 1652 Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, the Governor of the French settlement at Montreal, visited his sister, an Augustinian canoness in Troyes who directed the sodality to which Marguerite belonged. The governor invited Marguerite to come to Canada and start a school in Ville-Marie (eventually the city of Montreal).[5]

Before February 1653, Bourgeoys accepted the assignment to set up a congregation and a mission in New France. She set sail on the Saint-Nicholas from France along with approximately 100 other colonists, mostly men. They had been recruited and signed to working contracts.[6]

Life in the colony

Upon her arrival in the port of Quebec City on the following 22 September, Bourgeoys was offered hospitality with the Ursuline nuns there while transportation to Ville-Marie was arranged. She declined the offer and spent her stay in Quebec living alongside poor settlers.[7] This hints at her character and the future character of her congregation in Montreal - a secular and practical approach to spreading God's will. She arrived in Ville-Marie on 16 November.

Though this period of Bourgeoys' life in New France pales in comparison to her later years in terms of expansionary scope and influence, it is often seen as much more intimate. Bourgeoys would have known practically everyone in the colony.[8] However, she also faced difficult struggles during her first years there. There were no children to teach due to the high levels of infant mortality, which frustrated her plan to provide education. Despite this, she took it upon herself to help the community in any way she could, often working alongside the settlers.

During these early years, Bourgeoys did manage to make some significant initiatives. In 1657 she persuaded a work party to form in order to build Ville-Marie's first permanent church - the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel (French: Bonsecours).[9] She was provided with a vacant stone stable by de Maisonneuve, founder of Ville Marie, in April 1658 to serve as a schoolhouse for her students.[10] This was the beginning of public schooling in Montreal, established only five years after Marguerite's arrival.[11] Today a commemorative plaque marks the site of the stable school in Old Montreal. It can be found on a wall just below the southwest corner of Saint-Dizier and Saint-Paul Streets.

Soon after receiving the stable, Bourgeoys departed for France with the goal of bringing back more women to serve as teachers for the colony. This allowed her to house and to care for the "King's Daughters," or filles du roi, as they are known in Quebec (orphan girls sent by the Crown to establish families in the colony) upon their arrival from Europe.[9] Marguerite and her four companions were also responsible for examining the male settlers who arrived seeking a wife.[9]

Later life

The small group began to follow a religious way of life, establishing periods of common prayer and meals. The women, however, would spend time on their own in various towns throughout the colony, teaching the local children. During this three-year period, Bourgeoys and her small community sought various forms of official recognition and legitimation from both the Crown and the religious establishment in New France. In 1669, Bourgeoys had an audience with the colony's highest religious authority, François de Laval, the Apostolic Vicar of New France. He ultimately granted her wishes through an ordinance that gave permission to the congregation Notre-Dame to teach on the entire island of Montreal, as well as anywhere else in the colony that saw their services as necessary.[10] The bishop, however, later attempted to draft a Rule of Life for the community which would have imposed enclosure upon them.

In 1670 Bourgeoys set out once again for France, this time with the goal of gaining an audience with the King to protect the unenclosed nature of her community. She left with no money or clothing, only with a letter of recommendation by Jean Talon, Royal Intendant of the colony, in which he declares her great contribution to its future. By May 1671, she had not only met with Louis XIV, but had obtained letters patent from him which secured the viability of her community in New France as "secular Sisters". In fact, the French monarch went so far as to write that: "Not only has (Marguerite Bourgeoys) performed the office of schoolmistress by giving free instruction to the young girls in all occupations (...), far from being a liability to the country, she had built permanent buildings (...)."[10]

"Golden Age"

Helene Bernier refers to the future saint's work after 1672 as the "Golden Age" of the Congregation.[10] During the period, Bourgeoys' work as educator expanded rapidly in response to the growing needs and demands of the colony.

Though she always devoted the majority of her efforts to helping the more needy members of society, she also established a boarding school at Ville-Marie so that more affluent girls would not need to venture all the way to Quebec for their education. She went on to establish a school devoted to needle-work and other practical occupations for women in Pointe-Saint-Charles. Other smaller schools were also established and run by other members of the Congregation in places such as Lachine, Pointe-aux-Trembles, Batiscan and Champlain. In 1678, Marguerite also expanded into Native societies, setting up a small school in the Iroquois village of "la Montagne" (Montreal).[10]

Marguerite made a third trip to France in 1680 to protect the uncloistered character of her institution and seek additional members. Bishop Laval, also visiting France, forbade her to bring back any new recruits. However, the recruitment of Canadian-born women into the congregation assured the survival of her work. Though Bourgeoys may have returned to New France somewhat frustrated with the bishop, her influence continued to grow in the colony.

The 1680s saw the congregation grow significantly and finally gain a strong foothold in the city of Québec. The new bishop in the colony, Jean-Baptiste De La Croix de Saint-Vallier, had been impressed with the vocational school that Bourgeoys had established in Ville-Marie and worked with her towards establishing a similar institution in Quebec. A large number of sisters were also brought to Île d'Orléans to help the growing community in that area. In 1692, the congregation opened a school in Quebec that catered to girls from poor families.[10]

Final years

After announcing that she would step down in 1683, Marguerite relented and stayed on as the figurehead of the Congregation until 1693. Although she gave up daily leadership, she attempted to help her sisters retain the spirit which had characterized the Congregation from the start. Bourgeoys and her colleagues kept their secular character despite efforts by Bishop Saint-Vallier to impose a cloistered life upon them through a merger with the Ursulines. On July 1, 1698, the congregation was "canonically constituted a community".[10]

During her last two years, Bourgeoys devoted her time primarily to prayer and writing her autobiography, of which some remnants have survived. She died peacefully in Montreal on 12 January 1700. Her likeness, painted by Pierre Le Ber immediately after her death, portrays the compassion that animated her life. The portrait can be seen in the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum.

Veneration and canonization

Before Bourgeoys received official recognition in 1982 as a saint in the Catholic Church, many people already believed that she had the virtues of one. The day following her death, a priest wrote, "If saints were canonized as in the past by the voice of the people and of the clergy, tomorrow we would be saying the Mass of Saint Marguerite of Canada." Helene Bernier writes, "[P]opular admiration had already canonized her 250 years before her beatification."[12]

Numerous stories related to the time preceding her death. The elderly Sister Bourgeoys was said to have given up her life to God in order to save that of a younger member of the Congregation who had fallen ill. After intense prayer, the young nun was said to be cured and Marguerite fell terribly ill, dying soon thereafter.[12] After her death, she continued to be admired and highly regarded. The convent held an afternoon visitation open to the public; people treasured objects that they touched to her hands at this time, which became spiritual relics.[12] Her body was kept by the parish of Ville-Marie, but her heart was removed and preserved as a relic by the Congregation.[12]

Marguerite was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1982, the first female saint of Canada. The process was begun nearly 100 years before in 1878, when Pope Leo XIII gave her the title of "venerable" by papal decree. In November 1950, Pope Pius XII beatified her, giving her the title "Blessed Marguerite Bourgeoys."[12] The two miracles that led to her beatification both involved a miraculous cure from gangrene of the foot, gained by Joseph Descoteaux of St. Celestin, Quebec, and John Ludger Lacroix of St. Johnsbury, Vermont.[13] On 2 April 1982, Pope John Paul II issued the Decree of Miracle for a cure attributed to her intercession; on 31 October that year, she was canonized as Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys.[14]


On 30 May 1975 Canada Post issued the stamp, 'Marguerite Bourgeoys, 1620-1700', designed by Jacques Roy and based on a painting by Elmina Lachance. The 8¢ stamps are perforated 12.5 x 12 and were printed by Ashton-Potter Limited.[15] Other commemoration includes an all-girls high school named after her in Toronto, Ontario, and a school commission in the Montreal area. A French Catholic Elementary school in rural Eastern Ontario is named in her honour: École Sainte-Marguerite Bourgeoys in Merrickville, Ontario (with a campus also located in Kemptville, Ontario).

A women's college was named after her. It was adapted as a Cégep (Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel, known in English as CEGEP, a two-year public general and vocational college) in the 1960s. It retained its name of 'Collège Marguerite-Bourgeoys' until it closed in the 1990s. The former building on Westmount Avenue is still owned by the Congregation Notre-Dame. Today it is occupied by Marianopolis College, another CEGEP, founded by the English-speaking division of Congregation Notre-Dame.

Various organizations and locations are named after her, including Marguerite Bourgeoys Park in Montreal, the Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board, and the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Quebec provincial electoral district. In addition, a Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum is located in Old Montreal. A sculptural representation of Marguerite Bourgeoys stands in Place Marguerite Bourgeois across from the Quebec Court of Appeal and next to the Palais de justice in Old Montreal.


  1. ^ a b Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700) - biography, Vatican News Service
  2. ^ Terry N. Jones, “Saint Marguerite Bourgeous”,, 11 January 2010, accessed 6 February 2010
  3. ^ Simpson, Patricia. Marguerite Bougeoys and Montreal, 1640-1665 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997), p.6
  4. ^ "Marguerite Bourgeoys", Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  5. ^ a b "Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys", Franciscan Media
  6. ^ Simpson, Patricia. Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal: 1640-1665 (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1997), p. 101
  7. ^ Simpson, Patricia. Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal: 1640-1665 (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1997), p. 105)
  8. ^ Simpson, Patricia. Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal: 1640-1665 (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1997), p. 8
  9. ^ a b c "Marguerite Bourgeoys," Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "Marguerite Bourgeoys", Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  11. ^ Simpson, Patricia. Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal: 1640-1665 (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1997), p.117
  12. ^ a b c d e "Marguerite Bourgeoys", Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
  13. ^ N.C.W.C. News Service. "Canadian Heroine Beatified at Rites at St. Peter's in Rome", Southern Cross, November 25, 1950
  14. ^ Charlotte Gray, The Museum Called Canada: 25 Rooms of Wonder, New York: Random House, 2004
  15. ^ Canada Post Stamp

Further reading


External links

  1. ^

Bourgeoys may refer to:

Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620–1700), Catholic saint, founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame

Marguerite-Bourgeoys, a provincial electoral district in Quebec, Canada

Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum (Montreal)

Marin le Bourgeoys (c. 1550–1634), invented the flintlock mechanism


Brantford (2016 population 97,496; CMA population 134,203) is a city in southwestern Ontario, Canada, founded on the Grand River. It is surrounded by Brant County, but is politically separate with a municipal government of its own that is fully independent of the county's municipal government.Brantford is named after Joseph Brant, an important Mohawk chief during the American Revolutionary War and later, who led his people in their first decades in Upper Canada. Many of his descendants, and other First Nations citizens, live on the nearby Reserve of Six Nations of the Grand River, 20 kilometers from Brantford; it is the most populous reserve in Canada. Brantford is often known as the "Telephone City". The city's famous resident, Alexander Graham Bell, invented the device at his father's homestead, Melville House, now the Bell Homestead.

Clément Gignac

Clément Gignac (born May 7, 1955) is a Canadian politician, who represented the riding of Marguerite-Bourgeoys in the National Assembly of Quebec from 2009 to 2012. A member of the Quebec Liberal Party, he was elected in a by-election on June 22, 2009, following the resignation of Monique Jérôme-Forget.On the following day, Gignac was named by Jean Charest as the new Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade — a role which was previously held by Raymond Bachand, who was also the Finance Minister.Prior to his election to the Assembly, Gignac was (for a brief period of time) a senior advisor to the deputy minister of Finance in Ottawa.

Prior to this appointment, Gignac was senior vice-president, chief economist and strategist of National Bank Financial and in this role has ranked constantly over the last decade amongst the top strategists and economists in the country.

Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys

The Marguerite-Bourgeois School Board (Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeois) is a French language public school board on Montreal Island, Quebec, Canada. Its headquarters is in the Saint-Laurent borough of Montreal. Its education centre is in LaSalle, also in Montreal. It is named after Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620–1700), a French nun who helped start education infrastructure in the new colony.

Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal

The Congrégation de Notre Dame is a religious community for women founded in 1658 in the colony of New France, now part of Canada. It was established by Marguerite Bourgeoys, who created a religious community for women that was not cloistered; the sisters were allowed to live and work outside the convent. The Congregation held an important role in the development of New France, as it supported women and girls in the colony and offered roles for them outside the home. It founded a boarding school for girls' education, watched over the filles du roi, women immigrants whose passage was paid by the Crown, which wished to encourage marriages and the development of families in the colony. Some filles de roi and sisters served as missionaries to the First Nations peoples. The community's motherhouse has been based in Montreal for more than 350 years. Marguerite Bourgeoys was canonized in 1982 by the Roman Catholic Church and is Canada's first woman saint.

Fernand Lalonde

Fernand Lalonde (born August 27, 1932) is a Canadian lawyer and politician. Lalonde represented the riding of Marguerite-Bourgeoys in the National Assembly of Quebec from 1973 to 1984.

Born in Mont-Laurier, Quebec, Lalonde is the son of Maurice Lalonde and Éléonore Côté. He was educated at the Séminaire de Mont-Laurier, the Séminaire de Saint-Jean-d'Iberville, the Collège Sainte-Marie de Montréal, the Université de Montréal and McGill University. He was called to the Quebec bar in 1957 and practised law in Montreal. In 1974, he was named Queen's Counsel.

He was the coordinator of the Yes campaign in the Charlottetown Accord referendum of 1992.

Hélène David

Hélène David (born 1953) is a Canadian politician, who was elected to the National Assembly of Quebec in the 2014 provincial election. She represented the electoral district of Outremont from 2014 to 2018, and currently represents the district of Marguerite-Bourgeoys, as a member of the Quebec Liberal Party, and appointed as the Minister of Culture and Communications and Minister Responsible for the Protection and Promotion of the French Language.

LaSalle, Quebec

LaSalle (French pronunciation: ​[lasal]) is a borough of the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Prior to 2002, it was a separate municipality. It was founded in 1912 as a town. LaSalle is located in the south-west portion of the Island of Montreal, located along the Saint Lawrence river.

List of schools in Quebec

The following is an incomplete list of public schools in the Canadian province of Quebec.

Maison Saint-Gabriel

The Maison Saint-Gabriel Museum is located in Montreal, Quebec and is dedicated to preserving the history, heritage and artifacts of the settlers of New France in the mid 17th century. The museum consists of a small farm, which has been administered for more than 300 years by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal, founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys in Montreal in 1658.

The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2007.


Marguerite-Bourgeoys is a provincial electoral district in the Montreal region of Quebec, Canada that elects members to the National Assembly of Quebec. It comprises the LaSalle borough of the city of Montreal.

It was created for the 1966 election from parts of Jacques-Cartier and Montréal–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce electoral districts.

In the change from the 2001 to the 2011 electoral map, it gained some territory from Marquette electoral district.

It was named after Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys.

Marguerite Bourgeoys (sculpture)

Marguerite Bourgeoys is an outdoor 1988 sculpture and memorial depicting the founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal of the same name by Jules Lasalle, installed in front of 85 Notre-Dame Street East, in Montreal.

Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum (Montreal)

Opened on May 24, 1998, the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum is located on the shores of the Saint Lawrence River in the historic centre of Old Montreal. Exhibits focus on Marguerite Bourgeoys, Montreal's first teacher and founder of the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, who lived during the 17th century. Displays highlight her accomplishments that recall the great courage of the early colonists who built Montreal.

In addition, visitors can tour the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, to which the museum is connected. This tri-centenary chapel of pilgrimage is Montreal’s first and oldest chapel of pilgrimage.

Marguerite Bourgeoys Park

Marguerite Bourgeoys Park (French: Parc Marguerite-Bourgeoys) is a park in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is located in Pointe-Saint-Charles in the Southwest borough. It is bordered by Wellington Street to the west, du Parc Marguerite-Bourgeoys Street to the north and east, and des Filles du Roy Street to the south.

The park was created in 1910 was initially named Monahan Park. It was renamed Marguerite Bourgeoys Park in 1922.The park is named for Marguerite Bourgeoys, the French founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal in the colony of New France (present-day Quebec). She has been declared a Saint by the Catholic Church.

Marquette (provincial electoral district)

Marquette is a provincial electoral district in the Montreal region of Quebec, Canada, that elects members to the National Assembly of Quebec. It comprises the cities of Dorval, L'Île-Dorval, and the Lachine borough of Montreal.

It was created for the 1981 election from parts of Jacques-Cartier, Marguerite-Bourgeoys and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce electoral districts.

In the change from the 2001 to the 2011 electoral map, it lost the part of LaSalle borough that it formerly had to Marguerite-Bourgeoys electoral district.

Multani v Commission scolaire Marguerite‑Bourgeoys

Multani v Commission scolaire Marguerite‑Bourgeoys, [2006] 1 S.C.R. 256, 2006 SCC 6 is a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in which the Court struck down an order of a Quebec school authority, that prohibited a Sikh child from wearing a kirpan to school, as a violation of freedom of religion under section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This order could not be saved under section 1 of the Charter.

The case involved a 13-year-old Sikh named Gurbaj Singh, who in November 2001 dropped a metal kirpan at his school, École Sainte‑Catherine‑Labouré. This prompted the school board to request certain limits on the wearing of the kirpan, including that it be covered at all times. The Sikh family accepted this request. However, another board, in February 2002, overrode the school board, deciding that the kirpan was a weapon and thus was not allowed under the code of conduct. The council of commissioners agreed with the latter decision, although they suggested a non-metal kirpan could be used. The Quebec Court of Appeal found in favour of the council of commissioners.

Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel

The Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel (chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, "Our Lady of Good Help") is a church in the district of Old Montreal in Montreal, Quebec. One of the oldest churches in Montreal, it was built in 1771 over the ruins of an earlier chapel. The church is located at 400 Saint Paul Street East at Bonsecours Street, just north of the Bonsecours Market in the borough of Ville-Marie (Champ-de-Mars metro station).

Robert Poëti

Robert Poëti (born 13 August 1955) is a Canadian politician and former police officer of the Sûreté du Québec, currently representing the riding of Marguerite-Bourgeoys in the National Assembly of Quebec. A member of the Quebec Liberal Party caucus, he was first elected in the 2012 election.

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Church

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Parish is a Roman Catholic church in Brookfield, Connecticut, part of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

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