This Week in History
The Mother of Universal Charity
For the week of Monday May 1, 2000
On May 3, 1959, the Vatican beatified Marie-Marguerite d'Youville, an important step towards her becoming the first Canadian-born saint.
After François' death in 1730, Marie-Marguerite took over his struggling business, determined to give her sons a good life and seminary education. Her free time went to charity work. In 1737, d'Youville and three other women took vows, devoting their lives to the poor. They became known as les grises, a French term for tipsy women, because of d'Youville's husband's reputation as an illegal liquor trader.
In 1747, d'Youville assumed charge of Montréal's Hôpital Général, which had formerly been run by the Brothers Hospitallers. It was heavily indebted, but d'Youville completed all urgent repairs. Previously a hospital for men, she opened wards for both sexes. Hôpital Général housed abandoned children, "fallen women" and the poor. It only became a hospital in the modern sense during the 1755 smallpox epidemic.
In 1752, d'Youville successfully campaigned for a contract giving her religious community the same rights the Brothers Hospitallers had enjoyed. The sisters received their habits in 1755, adopting the name Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général, or Grey Nuns (Soeurs grises).
Marie-Marguerite d'Youville died in 1771. At her beatification, she was given the title "Mother of Universal Charity". She became a saint in 1990. Saint Marie-Marguerite d'Youville and the Grey Nuns of Montréal are designated of national historic significance.
- Date Modified: