St. Marguerite Bourgeoys
"If it is the will of God, I shall want for nothing."
Marguerite Bourgeoys was born in Troyes, in the province of Champagne in France, on April 17, 1620. At the age of thirty-three, she made the perilous trip across the Atlantic in order to initiate an apostolate of education in Ville Marie, now the city of Montreal. Her pupils there were both native children and the children of the early French settlers. And quite revolutionary for that time - she taught girls as well as boys.
Marguerite was a visionary and courageous woman. She understood that the cloistered life which was the only religious life available to her at the time did not fully imitate Mary’s journeying life which began with her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. She desired to create a community that reflected that spirit of the Visitation which Mary continued to practice at the wedding feast of Cana, at the foot of the cross and at Pentecost. Marguerite actually considered Our Lady the foundress and first superior of the Congregation of Notre Dame. Even in those pioneer, frontier times Marguerite believed that education in the faith, in literacy and in the life skills were the most important building blocks for survival. 350 years later, the tradition of education as the gateway to a personally fulfilling life persists in her schools. And so it is that Notre Dame Academy embodies in the 21st Century the fundamental truths established by Marguerite in the 17th Century.
From the writings of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys: “It is she (Mary) whom we regard as the foundress of this little company of women, who though they live in community, are not cloistered so that they may be sent for the instruction of girls to all the places judged suitable…It is, therefore, very reasonable that we commit ourselves to follow the way of life she led, the virtues she practiced, the work she carried on.”
After 47 years of life dedicated to the service of God and her neighbor, Marguerite Bourgeoys died in Montreal on January 12th, 1700. She was 80 years old, an extraordinary age for that time, and was already known as a person of eminent holiness. Marguerite Bourgeoys was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 31, 1982.
We celebrated the 400th anniversary of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys this past year.