Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Congregation of Notre Dame, 1665-1700

By Foley, Mary Anne | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Congregation of Notre Dame, 1665-1700


Foley, Mary Anne, The Catholic Historical Review


American and Canadian Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Congregation of Notre Dame, 1665-1700. By Patricia Simpson. [McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Religion, Series 2, No. 42.] (Montreal: McGill-Queens's University Press. 2006. Pp. xxvii, 292. $34.95. ISBN 978-0-773-52970-0.)

In Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal, 1640-1665 (Montreal, 1997), Patricia Simpson chronicled her subject's participation in the founding of the colony of Ville-Marie (Montreal) as an experiment in Christian living. This follow-up volume focuses on the efforts of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys to establish what became the first uncloistered community of women in North America.

Simpson's narrative of the years 1665 to 1680 focuses on Bourgeoys's two trips to France to obtain letters patent and advice about securing ecclesiastical recognition for the fledgling community. During this period, several women from France and Canada joined the original four French women, and the group established missions in the Montreal area, Trois Rivières, and Champlain. They provided elementary education for the children of settlers and native peoples, training in homemaking skills for young women, and religious instruction for children and women. Serving initially through missions ambulantes, they lived with local families in more distant areas until the Congregation was able to purchase property.

The last two decades of the seventeenth century saw geographic expansion as far as île d'Orléans and Quebec city, as well as an increase in the number of Canadians, along with some native women and two Englishspeaking former captives who had converted to Catholicism. Those years also were marked by three major crises for the Congregation: a fire that destroyed their main house; an ultimately unsuccessful movement to establish a single "spiritual" community replacing the Congregation, Hotel Dieu, and Sulpicians; and controversy with Bishop Jean-Baptiste de La Croix de Chevrières de Saint-Vallier over their rule and possible incorporation into the cloistered Ursulines of Quebec. …

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