Marguerite hails from neighboring Varennes, Canada. Her hardships began very early in life, when at age 12 she left school to help her widowed mother.
In 1725 she married François d’Youville, an indifferent gambler and bootlegger. By his death in 1730, they produced six children, but only two survived. While raising her children, she ran a store to pay off her husband’s debts and still managed to help the poor.
In 1737, when her two remaining children were independent, Marguerite and three friends created the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, but they were commonly called the “Grey Nuns” for the color of their habits. Together they were able to save a hospital that was in danger of failing.
The people of Montreal used to say, “Go to the Grey Nuns, they never refuse to serve.” Eventually, five other religious communities grew out of this original group.
In 1747, Marguerite was appointed Directress of the General Hospital of Montreal. When it burned to the ground, Marguerite knelt in the ashes and led the hymn, “Te Deum,” thus beginning the rebuilding process.
She also founded the first foundling home in North America. Pope St. John XXIII, who beatified Mère Marguerite in 1959, called her the “Mother of Universal Charity.” She was canonized in 1990.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from www.franciscanmedia.org