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The Contemporary Relevance of Marguerite Bourgeoys’s Message

Sr. Louise Côté, CND

Certain elements of Marguerite Bourgeoys’s message are as relevant as the Gospel: they were true yesterday, are still true today and will be always. The same applies, for instance, to the emphasis she placed on the great commandment to love. Other elements particularly stand out because of the context in which we live. What follows are some examples:

Human Dignity

Marguerite had an acute sense of human dignity and of equal dignity for all persons: each person is loved by God; for each one Jesus gave his blood.

This certainty led her to help everyone without exception. She spoke of teaching as a mission which must be fulfilled without distinction between the poor and the rich, between relatives and friends and strangers, between the pretty and the ugly, the gentle and the grumblers, looking upon them all as drops of Our Lord's blood.

The same is true when it came to accepting young women to religious life in her congregation: we must not show more esteem for a girl who has social rank than for another.

Regarding leadership, we already find principles which we use today, for example, co-responsibility: In all matters of general concern, the superior ought to act in harmony. Tradition relates that at the beginning of the Congregation, the sisters met each month to consider questions of common interest.

Respect for Creation

The environment is a field which preoccupies people today. Aware that the planet’s resources are finite and that we have started to live off nature’s capital, they are justifiably worried by the abuses they witness.

Of course, we cannot claim that, in the 16th century, such considerations were familiar to Marguerite Bourgeoys and that she was concerned for the integrity of creation.

However in the current context, Marguerite Bourgeoys’s belief in simplicity of life offers an alternative in today’s society. She spoke of a life which is not austere, not (lived) in the desert, but a (simple) little life. She encouraged a life detached of creature comforts that human nature typically seeks.

In following this path would we not be freeing ourselves from the invasive advertising which ceaselessly creates new needs and exploits the endless desire of possessing new products with the purpose of promoting over consumption?


Marguerite Bourgeoys’s teachings show us that it is still possible to discover a new path which leads to the respect for creation. She was able to cast a contemplative look upon the universe, a look that makes it possible to admire the beauty of creation. To our saint, nature spoke of its Author; while contemplating it, Marguerite was in communion with her Creator.

It is not clear for everyone that nature “sings the glory of God.” By contemplating creation, believers and non-believers will be better able to understand that planet Earth, threatened by humankind’s ill treatment, must be respected.

Listening and Dialogue

As a woman able to listen, Marguerite wished to be attentive to the will of her God, a will she wanted to embrace (…) at the least sign (she) could recognize. Listening to Mary, whose life was her inspiration, she continued down the path of the Gospel.

Our saint also offered her ability to listen to the people around her. She listened to her neighbour through whom God spoke, but she also listened to her neighbour to hear his or her needs and respond to them.

Marguerite, the listening woman, was also a woman of dialogue. During a study of Marguerite Bourgeoys’s handwriting, the graphologist emphasized that she “paid particular attention to the opinions of others and was open to dialogue.” She also affirmed that: “what is essential is considered, spoken and implemented. However, each one’s function and freedom are fully respected.”

Marguerite’s behavior and her way of expressing herself demonstrated her openness to cooperate, her ability to “work with others.”

In all these ways – listening, dialogue, cooperation – Marguerite imitated the “journeying” life of Mary who, at the Visitation, promptly set off to see her cousin Elizabeth and who, in the early Church, reminded the apostles of the teachings of their Master, teachings that were so deeply engraved on her heart.


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