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December 23

Saint Marguerite d'Youville statue at D'Youville College - December 23

Saint Marguerite d’Youville

Wife, Mother, Widow

Foundress of Grey Nuns

“Mother of Universal Charity” 

(1701 – 1771)

The Divine Father has been the object of all my trust for nearly forty years.

Saint Marguerite d’Youville

Saint’s Life Story

Her Family

Marie-Marguerite d’Youville was born in Varennes, Quebec, Canada on October 15, 1701. (According to Quebec naming conventions, she would have always been known as Marguerite, not Marie.) She was the eldest of six children. After her father died when she was just seven, her family was driven to poverty. It was only through the support of her great-grandfather that she was able to attend the Ursuline convent in Quebec City at the age of 11 for two years. Upon her return home, she became an invaluable support to her mother, Marie-Renée. Marguerite undertook the education of her younger brothers and sisters.

Married and Widowed

After marrying her husband François d’Youville at the age of 20, Marguerite soon came to realize that he had no interest in making a home life. A heavy drinker, he would often leave for long periods of time and deal in illegal trading. Even after all of this, when François became seriously ill, she faithfully cared for him, while pregnant, until his death in 1730. By age 29, she had experienced desperate poverty and suffered the loss of her father and husband and saw four of her six children die in infancy.

Religious Renewal with Charitable Works

Once widowed, Marguerite dedicated herself to her religious renewal and she grew in her belief of God’s presence in her life. Wanting to pass that belief unto others, she undertook many charitable works; provided for the education of her two sons, who later became priests; and welcomed a homeless blind woman into her home.

Sisters of Charity of Montreal

Word had quickly spread of her charity. Marguerite was soon joined by three young women who shared her love and concern for the poor. In 1737, they consecrated themselves to God and promised to serve Him in the person of the poor. At first, the home only housed four or five members, but it grew as the women raised funds. Marguerite, without even realizing it, had become the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal.

Mocked by Locals and the Poor

As their actions went against the social conventions of the day, Marguerite and her colleagues were mocked by their friends and relatives. They were even mocked by the poor they helped. Some called them “les grises”, which can mean “the grey women” but which also means “the drunken women”, in reference to her late husband’s career as a bootlegger.

“Grey Nuns of Montreal”

By 1744, the association had become a Catholic religious order with a rule and a formal community. In 1747, the General Hospital of Montreal was in ruins and debt. Marguerite was asked to become its director. She and her sisters were granted a charter to operate the hospital that they soon brought back into financial security. In 1765, a fire would destroy the hospital only to see Marguerite again turn to her faith and rebuild the hospital. She and her sisters continued their cared for those in most desperate human misery. After seeing their great work in the community, Marguerite and her followers were now being known as the “Grey Nuns of Montreal.” With the help of her sisters and their lay collaborators, Marguerite laid the foundation for service to the poor.

Her Death

Marguerite died in in the General Hospital in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on December 23, 1771 after a life-long service to those in need. Pope John XXIII beatified Marguerite on May 3, 1959 and called her “Mother of Universal Charity”. Marguerite is the first native-born Canadian to be elevated to sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church. Marguerite was one woman, but this daughter of the Church had a vision of caring for the poor that has spread far and wide.

A large number of Roman Catholic churches, schools, women’s shelters, charity shops, and other institutions in Canada and worldwide are named after Saint Marguerite d’Youville. Most notably, the renowned academic institution of higher learning, D’Youville College in Buffalo, NY, is named after her. The D’Youville Academy at Plattsburgh, New York was founded in 1860.

Born:                  October 15, 1701 in Varennes, Quebec, Canada

Died:                  December 23, 1771 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Beatified:          May 3, 1959 by Pope John XXIII

Canonized:       December 9, 1990 by Pope John Paul II

Feast Day:        December 23, October 16 in some places

Patron Saint:    Against The Death Of Children; Difficult Marriages; In-Law Problems; Loss Of Parents; People Ridiculed For Their Pity; Victims Of Adultery; Victims Of Unfaithfulness; Widows



Saint Marguerite d’Youville had a string of bad things happen to her over her lifetime.  She was fatherless at 7, a school dropout at 13, a widow at 29, who lost 4 of her 6 children in their infancy. So, Saint Marguerite could have despaired a dozen times in her life, overcome by her circumstances and unable to see anything but her own sorrow.  However, all of these challenges did not stop Saint Marguerite from undertaking many charitable works sharing her love and concern for the poor through work as foundress of the Grey Nuns and mother to two priests. Pray for for those for whom everything seems to go wrong, that they will find inspiration in their suffering to offer their lives for others

Have you ever felt like you were “cursed” with bad luck and no one was listening to your prayers? If you are doing God’s work, like Saint Marguerite was, your prayers will be answered and trust the Divine Father will provide you in your endeavors.


Saint Marguerite, starting from an early age and throughout your life, you knew what it was like to struggle and suffer against the harsh realities of economic difficulty. In the responsibilities you faced as administrator of the General Hospital of Montreal, you excelled in your resourcefulness, hard work, leadership, and innovative ways of being a good steward with the blessings God entrusted to you. In the mystery of God’s providence, intercede for us and help us to use wisely our money and possessions, so that through our own hard work, we may have enough to provide for loved ones and be able to share generously with those in need.

Saint Marguerite d’Youville, pray for us. Amen.

Source: Prayer to St. Marguerite d’Youville.pdf (

Saint Links 

Aleteia – St. Marguerite d’Youville: One of the greatest Catholic women yet to live in the New World

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 16 October – Saint Marie Marguerite d’Youville (1701-1771)

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops – Saint Marguerite d’Youville (1701-1771)

Catholic Online – St. Marguerite d’Youville

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Marguerite d’Youville

Franciscan Media – Saint Marguerite d’Youville

Les Souers Grises de Montreal (The Grey Nuns) – Saint Marguerite d’Youville

Loyola Press – Saint Marguerite d Youville Feast Day December 24

National Catholic Register – 10 Patron Saints of Marriage and Marital Difficulties

New Advent – Lindsay, L. (1912). Marie-Marguérite d’Youville. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Rose Venerini (1656-1728)

The Koala Mom – St. Marguerite d’Youville, founder of the Grey Nuns

University of Notre Dame – St. Marguerite d’Youville

Vatican – Marie Marguerite d’Youville (1701-1771)

Wikipedia – Marie-Marguerite d’Youville

Video Link