Marie Marguerite d’Youville

Feast day: October 16 (Canada)
Venerated: April 28, 1890
Beatified: May 3, 1959
Canonized: December 9, 1990

Marie Marguerite d’Youville was the first person born in Canada to be named a saint, an event that took place on Dec. 9, 1990.

She was born Marie de Lajemmerais in Quebec in 1701. Her father died when she was only 7, and she and her four brothers and sisters and their mother were very poor. Her great-grandfather paid for her to be educated by the Ursuline nuns in Quebec for two years, and when she returned home, she helped support her family and taught her brothers and sisters.

When she was 20, Marie Marguerite married Francois d’Youville. Her married life was difficult. When she was only 29, her husband died. While raising their two sons, both of whom became priests, she did many charitable works. She even invited a blind woman to live in her home. When word spread of her charity, three other women who wished to work with the poor came to her, and as a group, they consecrated their lives to God. So in 1737, Marguerite, as she was called, was the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, the “Grey Nuns.”

She and her sisters rebuilt a local hospital and cared for people in need. Marguerite became superior of the order and was known as the “mother of the poor.” When a fire destroyed the hospital she had work so hard to rebuild, she undertook its reconstruction once again. The work exhausted her, and she died on December 23, 1771.

Today, her sisters serve in Montreal, and offshoot congregations include the Sisters of Charity of St. Hyacinthe, the Sisters of Charity at Ottawa, the Sisters of Charity of Quebec, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart in Philadelphia, and the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Pembroke, Ontario. Her sisters have opened schools, orphanages, and hospitals and are especially known for their work among the Inuits.