October 15, 2017

St. Marguerite d'Youville, First Native Canadian Saint

Saint Marguerite d'Youville

October 16th, the Church in Canada observes the optional memorial of Saint Marguerite d'Youville, the first native Canadian to be elevated to sainthood. She was born October 15, 1701 at Varennes, Quebec, the eldest child to Christophe Dufrost de Lajemmerais and Marie-Renée Gaultier. Her father died when she was 7 years old leaving her family in tremendous poverty. She studied 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 poverty and lost her father and husband. Four of her six children died in infancy.

In all these suffering Marguerite grew in her belief of God's presence in her life and his infinite love for every human person. She greatly desired to make his compassionate love for all known throughout the world. She undertook many charitable works with complete trust in God, who she loved as a Father.

She provided for the education of her two sons, who would 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 persons of the poor and sick. Marguerite, without even realizing it, had become the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, also called the "Grey Nuns".

In 1747, Sister Marguerite, who was referred to as the "mother of the poor", 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 fellow sisters, Marguerite laid the foundation for ministering to the indigent population of Montreal and beyond.

A fire destroyed the hospital in 1765, but nothing could diminish Marguerite's faith and courage. She asked her sisters and the poor who lived at the hospital, to recognize the hand of God in this disaster and to offer him praise. 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. She is remembered as a loving mother who served Jesus Christ in the destitute.

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