Saint Marguerite d'Youville: Mother, widow, entrepreneur and foundress - Catholic Church of Montreal
Catholic Church of Montreal > News > Topics > Saint Marguerite d'Youville > Saint Marguerite d'Youville: Mother, widow, entrepreneur and foundress

Saint Marguerite d'Youville: Mother, widow, entrepreneur and foundress

Saint Marguerite d'Youville, first Canadian-born saint. (Image courtesy of Sisters of Charity of Montreal, more commonly known as the Grey Nuns, will leave their motherhouse for good in 2011. The remains of their foundress, Saint Marguerite d'Youville, have rested in the motherhouse chapel since the time of her death in 1771.

Several events will take place Dec. 7-9 surrounding the transfer of the saint's remains from the motherhouse in downtown Montreal to Varennes, where she was born. They will be laid in Saint Anne's Basilica, adjacent to the sanctuary dedicated to Saint Marguerite.


Marie-Marguerite Dufrost de la Jemmerais was born in Varennes, southeast of Montreal, on Oct. 15, 1701. She was the eldest in a family of six children. Her father died when she was 7. The family moved to Montreal in 1719, after her mother remarried.

In 1722, Marguerite married François d'Youville; they lived with his mother. François had a fur and alcohol business, reputed for having suspicious dealings. After his mother died, he squandered his inheritance and died young, leaving his 28-year-old wife with two sons, a bad reputation and enormous debt.


Marguerite decided to open a small business, not only to provide for her two children but also to help the poor who crossed her path. Three women, inspired by her good works, joined her. They eventually decided to consecrate themselves to the service of the poor, in whom they saw Jesus Christ, on Dec. 31, 1737. This decisive moment is considered to be the foundation of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal.


Their business was barely established when people began to harass them, suspecting them of pursuing François d'Youville's alcohol racket. They were derided with the nickname "Grey Nuns", a reference to drunkenness, and faced many challenges in the years that followed: fire, sickness and extreme poverty. 

Marguerite and her fellow sisters moved into the General Hospital of the Charon Brothers and took over the administration of this refuge for unwed mothers, the elderly, the sick, the poor, men and women. When government officials wanted to close the refuge, the people defended Mother d'Youville's work, and the General Hospital remained in Montreal.


Marguerite d'Youville died on Dec. 23, 1771. She was remembered as an exceptionalwoman and was recognized for her courage, audacity, and love for Jesus and the poor.The cause for her canonization was opened in Rome in 1890. Pope John XXIII declaredher blessed on May 3, 1959, and gave her the title, Mother of Universal Charity. PopeJohn Paul II canonized her Dec. 9, 1990, the first female saint born in Canada.

Sources : Capsules « Si Marguerite dʼYouville nous était racontée », rédigées par Soeur Nicole Fournier, SGM; le site web :


Go back