| By Candace Bryant-Lester

St. Marie of the Incarnation

1599-1672  |  Feast: April 30

St. Marie of the Incarnation always trusted in the providence of God, despite all obstacles. She is celebrated as the founder of the Ursuline Order in Canada, and her work in educating young girls in the 17th century is still recognized today as helping to lay the foundations for formal education in Canada.

Born in Tours, France in 1599, Marie was a very devout, spiritual child. She recounted in a book that she experienced a mystical vision at the age of seven. Though she clearly desired to enter religious life, her parents wanted her to marry, which she did at the age of 17. She had a son but then lost her husband just two years later.

In 1631, she finally entered the Ursuline convent. This came at a price, however, since entering the convent required her to leave her 12-year-old son. Marie left him in the care of her sister, and despite the difficulties experienced with the separation, her son became a Benedictine monk.

In 1633, after professing her vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, she recounted another mystical vision which took place in a strange land. With the help of a spiritual adviser, they determined that the foreign land was Canada, and her calling was to spread the faith in the New World. In spite of several delays and financial troubles, she set sail for Quebec in 1639.

As one of the first women missionaries in North America, Marie worked tirelessly at the Ursuline school to educate and catechize young girls, both Indigenous and French. She learned the languages of the Indigenous populations and was also a prolific writer. She developed dictionaries, a sacred history and a catechism in Algonquin and Iroquois. With deep trust in the Lord, St. Marie founded the first Ursuline monastery in Quebec, which has had a lasting effect on the faith of the Canadian people.