Feast Day : April 11
Patronage: death of children; difficult marriages; inlaw problems; loss of parents; opposition of Church authorities; people ridiculed for their piety; victims of adultery; victims of unfaithfulness; widows
Also known as: Mary Margaret Dufrost de la Jemmarais d’Youville
Marguerite D’Youville was born at Varennes, Quebec, Canada, on October 15, 1701, the daughter of Christophe Dufrost de la Jemmerais and Renée de Varennes. Her father, a French soldier, died in her youth. After studying with the Ursulines, she married François D’ Youville in 1722, when she was 21. The marriage was unhappy, but the couple produced three children, one of whom died young. When François died in 1730, Margeurite had to work to support herself and her two surviving children. However, she also devoted much time to charitable activities. Herself a battered wife, she opened a shelter for other battered women, prostitutes and Indian women. In 1737, Marguerite and three companions took their initial vows in a new religious congregation, the Sisters of Charity (the Grey Nuns); a formal declaration of the new order followed in 1745. Two years later, Marguerite was appointed director of the General Hospital in Montreal, thenceforth under the management of the Grey Nuns. In 1755, the bishop of Pontbriand of Quebec gave his approval to the order, acknowledging Marguerite as superior. From 1756 to 1763, Canadians fought the Seven Years’ War, which brought Quebec under British rule. After the war, Marguerite was involved with the politics of society, church and government, as the predominantly French Quebecois struggled to find their place in a new reality. They were made to feel unwelcome in a land they had always called home, living under the ominous threat that England would not long tolerate the practice of Catholicism. The Grey Nuns, however, persevered and have survived. Since Marguerite’s death in Montreal on December 23, 1771, the order has established schools, hospitals and orphanages throughout Canada, the United States, Africa and South America. They are known especially for their work among the Canadian Inuit (Eskimos).