12 January 2011

12 January - Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys

Weather: the weather today indicates the weather of December.
Big snowstorm.  BIG!  High winds and a LOT of SNOW!
If on January 12th the sun shines, it foreshows much wind. No sun today, but the wind was up in any case.
In the new calendar, this is the memorial of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys (or Bourgeous)

This remarkable woman followed a call to teach children of the colonists in Ville Marie (Montreal), and left France for the New World in 1653.   Her first view of the field of her future endeavors must have been discouraging, as there were only about 150 people there, living in rude huts, and few children who even lived to school age.

After putting her hands to all sorts of work under rough conditions - nursing, establishing a local church (Notre Dame de Bon Secours), restoring a cross which had been destroyed Indians, keeping house for the governor - she was finally able to open her first school in 1658, and taught both the children of the colonists and the children of local Amerindians.

She returned twice to France to recruit women to help her - together they formed the Congregation of Notre Dame, a non-cloistered community requiring simple vows, which allowed the sisters to move to where they were needed throughout the wilderness.

Women had been coming to New France from the 1630's to find husbands among the colonists, but life was much different in the New World, even for those women who had been bred up in the country.  This was very apparent with the arrival of the first Filles du Roi in 1663.  Most of them were recruited from orphanages in the larger cities and towns, and the girls needed instruction in the domestic skills needed on a farm, from cooking to gardening to slaughtering animals.

Realizing that these women in their outlying and often isolated farms would be the primary means of education for their children, Marguerite and her sisters set out to teach them not only the rudiments of farm life, but literacy and religious instruction as well.

By the time Mother Marguerite died in 1700, the Rule for her Congregation had been approved, and several schools and missions established.

This interactive site has a lot of interesting information about Saint Marguerite and her life in New France, including a bit of genealogy.  Could you be descended from a Fille du Roi or their predecessors, the Filles a Marier?