RAIZENNE (Rézine), MARIE-CLOTILDE, named Marie de l’Incarnation, member of the Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général of Montreal (Grey Nuns), founder of the Congregation de l’Enfant-Jésus, and educator; b. 12 April 1766 at Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes (Oka), Que., daughter of Jean-Baptiste-Jérôme Raizenne, farmer, and Marie-Charlotte Sabourin; d. 21 Aug. 1829 in Sandwich (Windsor), Upper Canada.
Marie-Clotilde Raizenne’s paternal grandparents, Josiah Rising and Abigail Nims, and her maternal grandmother, Sara Enneson (Anson), were captured as children by Indians during raids into New England and were raised by them in the Montreal area [see Marie Raizenne*, named Saint-Ignace]. Marie-Clotilde herself grew up in a pious, orderly Quebec family in which seven of the ten children were to have vocations in the church. She attended the mission school at Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes for three years, and may have learned Mohawk. On 14 Feb. 1785 she entered the Grey Nuns at the Hôpital Général of Montreal. Appointed sacristan, Sister Raizenne displayed promise as an administrator and a gift for needlework. She became treasurer, and in 1811 was placed in charge of the men’s wing. On 23 Feb. 1821 she was elected assistant to the superior. She was accustomed to copy into notebooks prayers, references to family events, and items of the Grey Nuns’ history. One of these notebooks was later used to locate the grave of the community’s founder, Marie-Marguerite d’Youville [Dufrost* de Lajemmerais].
In 1822 Bishop Alexander McDonell*, looking for nuns to operate a school for young girls in Upper Canada, extended an invitation to the Grey Nuns. This invitation, which the community declined, changed the course of Sister Raizenne’s life. She became determined to go to Upper Canada herself and overcame difficulties raised by relatives, the views held in her religious community, and even the reservations of members of the hierarchy. On 8 March 1828 Bishop Bernard-Claude Panet released her from obligations to the Grey Nuns so that she might found the Congrégation de l’Enfant-Jésus. Bishop McDonell had originally intended that Sister Raizenne’s school should be located in Kingston, but by May 1828, “taking into consideration her being a Canadian speaking the French language and several other circumstances,” he had concluded that the Western District would be more appropriate. Illness delayed McDonell’s final authorization of the school; it was not until 9 Oct. 1828 that the 62-year-old sister, accompanied by two nieces and by Della McCord, left Montreal for McDonell’s residence in St Raphaels, Upper Canada, where she put on her new religious habit and took the name Marie de l’Incarnation.
Uncertainty arising from McDonell’s illness had also slowed preparations in the Western District for her coming, but the letter she wrote to Lieutenant Governor Sir John Colborne* on 17 Dec. 1828 gave no hint of the confusion attending her unannounced arrival at Amherstburg and subsequent move to Sandwich. McDonell was optimistic about the future of the enterprise, telling François Baby* that it would succeed if obstacles were not placed in its way “by the people themselves.” For a time it seemed that his expectation was to be fulfilled. On 14 July 1829 Raizenne wrote to Bishop Panet that 50 children attended the school, the postulants had received the habit, and several candidates would enter the congregation when the convent was completed. But only five weeks later, on 21 Aug. 1829, she died after a short illness. She was buried beneath the parish church but on 24 Sept. 1850 her remains were transferred to the present Assumption Church.
The talents and tenacity of the congregation’s founder, combined with her family background and experience as a Grey Nun, might have overcome pioneer difficulties in Sandwich. Without her leadership the novices dispersed after a few years, leaving Raizenne as the first and only member of the Congrégation de l’Enfant-Jésus.
AAQ, 210 A, X: 374; 320 CN, IV: 177. ACAM, RC, I : f.160; RLL, IV: 319–20, 322, 325, 398, 408, 415; V: 139, 143. Arch. de la Compagnie de Jésus, prov. du Canada français (Saint-Jérôme, Qué.), 4072, Pierre Point, report for 1850 (copy at Assumption Church, Windsor, Ont.). Arch. des Sœurs Grises (Montréal), J. P. Macdonald à Sœur Raizenne, 24 avril, 3 juin 1828; Nécrologe, no.48; M.-C. Raizenne, cahier; formule des vœux, 14 févr. 1787; Reg. de vêture et profession, no.29. Arch. of the Archdiocese of Kingston (Kingston, Ont.), AI (Alexander Macdonell papers, corr.), 23 May 1828–20 June 1832 (transcripts at AO). Arch. of the Archdiocese of Toronto, M (Macdonell papers), AB03.03, 09.02, 20.05–6, 45.02; AC21.03–5, 22.03; CA04.01–2. ASSM, 21, Joseph Crevier à Macdonell, 25 août 1829; Macdonell à Roux, 12 sept. 1829. Assumption Church, Reg. of burials, 22 Aug. 1829. Private arch., Joseph Finn (Chatham, Ont.), R. H. Dignan, “History of the Diocese of London” (photocopy at Arch. of the Diocese of London (London, Ont.)). Dictionnaire national des Canadiens français (1608–1760) (3v., Montréal, 1965). Tanguay, Dictionnaire. [É.-M. Faillon], Vie de la sœur Bourgeoys, fondatrice de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame de Villemarie en Canada, suivie de l’histoire de cet institut jusqu’à ce jour (2v., Villemarie [Montréal], 1853); Vie de Mme d’Youville, fondatrice des Sœurs de la Charité de Villemarie dans l’île de Montréal, en Canada (Villemarie, 1852). [Albina Fauteux et Clémentine Drouin], L’Hôpital Général des Sœurs de la charité (Sœurs Grises) depuis sa fondation jusqu’à nos jours (3v. parus, Montréal, 1916–?), 1–2. [Guillemine Raizenne, named] Sœur Saint-Jean l’Évangéliste, Notes historiques sur la famille Raizenne . . . ([Ottawa], 1932). E. J. Lajeunesse, “The coming of the first nun to Upper Canada,” CCHA Report, 22 (1955): 27–37.
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