Today we begin a new series on the NCSS blog called “Saint of the Day.” The Catholic Church has such a rich history of holy men and women that we can look up to and ask to pray for us, so let’s get to know some of them throughout the semester. We start off with a Canadian saint, with this contribution to our Jesuit friend and Newman Alum, Brother Dan Leckman!
Being students of a downtown campus, you hopefully have walked around a little bit in the streets of Montreal, and you’ve noticed a lot of names of saints on the street names. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll even know that two of the biggest streets in the downtown/Plateau area of Montreal (Mainsoneuve, Jeanne Mance) are the names of people involved in the founding of Montreal. Indeed you can learn a lot about Montreal’s history just by looking at street names. However, one name you will not find, is that of today’s saint, Marguerite Bourgeoys. This to me is very strange, because her impact on the city was not small. In 1657, she persuaded a work party to form in order to build Ville- Marie’s (this is what Montreal used to be called) first permanent Church, The Chapel of our Lady of Good Counsel (Bonsecours in French), a chapel that was finally completed in 1673. She opened the first school in the city in 1658 (almost 20 years after De Mainsoneuve founded the city). In 1671, she had enough courage and vision to found a non-cloistered community of nuns in Montreal, called the Congrégation de Notre Dame (or CND) – nuns not living in a monastery is common today, but was unheard of back then! To top it all off, what amazes me about this woman was her devotion to being close to, and available for, the most marginalized people in society. The fact that she committed so many years of her life to the young girls, the poor, and the aboriginal population of Fort Ville Marie is a powerful testimony to that. I can’t help but think that much of the city’s concern for the poor today has its origins in her selfless acts!
Still, I wonder how Marguerite would feel if she walked around this city, a place that she gave so much of her life to, and noticed that there were no street named after her. Something tells me that she would feel peace, because such honors are not what would have mattered to her. She would instead rejoice at the fact that her sisters today represent this city’s rich history more beautifully than any other community one may find in Montreal –even my own, the Jesuits! She would be so proud that these modern day CNDs remain a vibrant community of nuns who are involved and engaged in the charism and vision of their foundress. Yes, she may feel some sadness that much of the works of the Church and of her community have declined dramatically over the years, but she would probably also feel hope, knowing thatshe had labored too hard to plant the seeds for there to be no hope, even today. So I pray that we can carry that hope for the Church in our lives today, and that we can all be as dedicated as she was to serving and caring for those who are less fortunate than we.
St Marguerite Bourgeoys, Pray for Us
Notre dame de Bonsecours, priez pour nous
Our Lady of Ville Marie, pray for us.
By: Brother Dan Leckman