Saint Marguerite d’Youville - Mother of Universal Charity
Marie-Marguerite Dufrost de Lajemmerais was born in Varennes, Quebec on October 15, 1701. The eldest of six children, Marguerite’s father died when she was seven years old, leaving the family in great poverty. Through the goodwill of her great grandfather, she left home and studied for two years at the Ursulines in Quebec. At age 13 she returned home, assumed the responsibility for educating her siblings and provided invaluable support to her mother.
In 1722, she married Francois d'Youville. They had six children, four of whom died in infancy. His indifference toward her, illegal bootlegging and playing games of chance, caused her great suffering. She faithfully cared for him when he became ill until his passing in 1730, leaving her in financial hardship.
She opened a small shop and provided for her sons’ education, both of whom went on to become priests. Her own experience with poverty only served to deepen her compassion for the poor. With her children grown, Marguerite along with several other women dedicated their lives to serving God through assisting the poor. They founded the Sisters of Charity of Montreal or the “Grey Nuns”, so known by the color of their habits. Their dedication to the poor broke with the social conventions of the day and made them the objects of ridicule and persecution.
In 1747, Marguerite was asked to oversee the administration of the General Hospital in Montreal. Marguerite and her companions restored the Hospital, eliminated all mortgages and provided care to all, especially those marginalized by society. When the hospital was destroyed by fire in 1766, Marguerite knelt in its ashes offered praise to God and began the rebuilding process.
Marguerite passed away on December 23, 1771 after a lifetime of devotion to Jesus Christ. Her Sisters of Charity continue to serve to this day. Pope John XXIII beatified her in 1959 bestowing her “Mother of Universal Charity”.
She was canonized in 1990 becoming the first native Canadian elevated to sainthood.
The Feast Day of St. Marguerite d’Youville is October 16th.