Youville, Marie Marguerite d', St.
YOUVILLE, MARIE MARGUERITE D', ST.
Foundress; first native Canadian saint; b. Varennes, Canada, Oct. 15, 1701; d. Montreal, Canada, Dec. 23, 1771.
Marguerite was the eldest of six children born to Christophe Dufrost de Lajemmerais and Marie–Renée Gaultier. Her father died when she was seven years old, leaving this family of six in great poverty. Through the influence of her great grandfather, Pierre Boucher, she was enabled to study 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.
Marguerite 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. Marguerite soon came to realize that her husband had no interest in making a home life. His frequent absences and illegal trading with the natives caused her great suffering and brought him infamy. She was pregnant with their sixth child when François became seriously ill. She faithfully cared for him until his death in 1730.
By the age of 29, she had experienced desperate poverty and suffered the loss of her father and husband. Four of her six children had died in infancy. In all these sufferings, Marguerite grew in her belief of God's presence in her life and God's love for every human person. She, in turn, wanted to make known God's compassion to all, undertaking many charitable works with complete trust in God.
Marguerite provided for the education of her two sons, who later became priests. As a Lady of Charity in her parish, Madame d'Youville helped the sick, buried the bodies of hanged criminals, and 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 Dec. 31, 1737, they consecrated themselves to God and promised to serve God in the person of the poor. Marguerite, without realizing it, had founded a group that would become the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, "Grey Nuns."
D'Youville always fought for the rights of the poor and broke with the social conventions of her day, making her the object of ridicule and taunts by her own relatives. Her small society was publicly refused Holy Communion, stoned, and insulted. When fire destroyed their home, they pledged on Feb. 2, 1745 to put everything in common in order to help a greater number of persons in need.
In 1747, this "mother of the poor" as she was called, 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 lay collaborators, Marguerite laid the foundation for service to the poor of a thousand faces.
In 1765 a fire destroyed the hospital, but Marguerite's faith and courage remained firm. She asked her sisters and the poor who lived at the hospital to recognize the hand of God in the disaster and to offer praise. At the age of 64, she undertook the reconstruction of this shelter for those in need. Totally exhausted, she died six years later.
She was declared venerable in 1890, beatified on May 3, 1959 by Pope John XXIII, who called her "Mother of Universal Charity," and canonized by John Paul II on Dec. 9, 1990.
Feast Oct. 16 (Canada).
Bibliography: Archives, Grey Nuns of Montreal. a. ferland–angers, Mère d'Youville (Montréal 1945), approved Fr. biog. for beatification. m. p. fitts, Hands to the Needy; Blessed Marguerite d'Youville, Apostle to the Poor (Garden City, NY 1971), approved Eng. biog. for beatification. b. jettÉ, Vie de la vénérable mère d'Youville, fondatrice des Soeurs de la charité de Montréal, suivie d'un historique de son institut (Montréal 1900). a. fauteux, Love Spans the Centuries, 4 vols. (Montreal, 1987). e. mitchell, Marguerite d'Youville, Foundress of the Grey Nuns, tr. h. nantais (Montreal 1965); Le vrai visage de Marguerite d'Youville (Montréal 1973); The Spiritual Portrait of Saint Marguerite d'Youville (Montreal 1993).