Monday, January 12, 2009

Notes on the Memorial of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys.

Today is the Memorial of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, who left her native France in 1653 at the age of thirty-two to become a teacher in the frontier settlement of Ville-Marie and later founded one of the first apostolic communities of religious women in North America, the Congrégation de Notre-Dame de Montréal. Arriving in New France at a time when the future city of Montreal had fewer than sixty inhabitants, Marguerite Bourgeoys quickly established herself as a leading member of the community; a mere two years after her arrival, Marguerite convinced her fellow colonists to support the foundation of the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, which may be seen in the sequence of photos above. Returning to France to recruit teachers for a new school she had founded, Marguerite gathered together a group of devout and hardworking young women who became the first members of the Congregation of Notre Dame. Though the Church was initially hesitant to sanction the foundation of a community of uncloistered religious women, the new congregation received official approbation in 1698, two years before Marguerite's death. Beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1950, Marguerite Bourgeoys was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II on October 31, 1982.

I took the above photos of the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours during a visit to Montreal in January of last year. The view of the angel with the Marché Bonsecours in the background (first photo) was taken from an observation deck on the roof of the chapel. The inscription over the front doors of the chapel (third photo) is one that may be found above the doors of many chapels in France: "Si l’amour de Marie en ton cœur est gravé, en passant ne t’oublie de lui dire un Ave." ("If the love of Mary is engraved in your heart, in passing [here] do not forget to say a Hail Mary.") Located near Montreal's historic waterfront, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours has traditionally been regarded as a kind of sailors' church, as the model ships hanging in the sanctuary of the chapel attest (fourth photo). Though Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours has long a place of pilgrimage in its own right, since 2005 the chapel has also housed the tomb of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys (fifth photo). Most images of the saint in the chapel and elsewhere depict her as a young woman (sixth photo), though the only portrait painted in Marguerite's lifetime shows her at the age of seventy-nine (seventh photo).

On this Memorial of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, I'm praying in a special way for the people of Montreal and for the Congregation of Notre Dame. May the Church that St. Marguerite Bourgeoys served so well find inspiration and greater zeal in following in her example, and may the members of the religious institute that she founded always remain faithful to her charism. Sainte Marguerite Bourgeoys, priez pour nous. AMDG.


At 12/09/2012 5:20 PM, Blogger montreal_buddy said...

Wonderful photographs of the Chapel. As an additional note of interest, the wood carving of Marguerite Bourgeoys in the sixth picture was sculpted by Canadian sculptor Joseph Guardo in 1959. Thanks for sharing it!

The Guardo Family

At 12/09/2012 9:02 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Thank you for the note - and thank you for working to preserve Joseph Guardo's artistic legacy!


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