JUCHEREAU DUCHESNAY, MARIE-JOSEPH, dite de l’Enfant-Jésus, Hospitaller of the Hôpital Général of Quebec, superior; b. 20 Feb. 1699 at Beauport (Que.), daughter of Ignace Juchereau* Duchesnay, seigneur of Beauport, and Marie-Catherine Peuvret Demesnu; d. 20 Nov. 1760 at Quebec.
Marie-Joseph Juchereau Duchesnay entered the convent of the Hôpital Général of Quebec on 3 Nov. 1713 and made her profession on 23 April 1715. In view of her youth – she was 14 and a half years old – the Juchereaus offered a dowry of 3,500 livres in local currency to facilitate her admission; they had agreed to give only 2,500 livres for her sister, Geneviève de Saint-Augustin, who had entered the convent four years earlier. When a novice made her profession she undertook in writing to give a certain sum in money or in property which would serve for her keep and, if necessary, help the order out of financial difficulties. Under this system of dowries the state played a role in setting the amount; except during the period 1722–32, the dowry required in New France was 3,000 livres. However, because of the country’s poverty, it sometimes happened that this requirement was waived at the Hôpital Général, as with the other orders in Quebec. Again, in place of hard cash the candidates often offered a fur-trading licence, a piece of land, lumber, or wheat.
In 1716 Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*] sent Marie-Joseph de l’Enfant-Jésus to study leaf gilding and embroidery with gold and silver thread with the Ursulines of Quebec, who excelled in this sort of work. Five years later, in 1721, Marie-Joseph was helping her sister in running the house: she was elected assistant superior to Geneviève de Saint-Augustin, superior since 1717. From 1724 to 1729 Marie-Joseph appears to have held the position of senior Hospitaller. Then in 1729, in the triennial elections, she was chosen, along with Angélique Hayot, dite de Saint-Joseph, depositary (bursar) and discreet (counsellor). She did not hold these offices long, for in 1730, immediately after the death of her sister Geneviève, the dean of the chapter, Louis Bertrand* de Latour, decided to appoint Marie-Thérèse Langlois, dite de Saint-Jean-Baptiste, superior; this arbitrary act brought about a sharp division within the community. As one of the group of recalcitrant nuns, Marie-Joseph Juchereau remained for some time out of the important offices in the community. In 1732, following canonical elections, Marie-Thérèse de Saint-Jean-Baptiste yielded the direction to Marie-Joseph Juchereau, who was elected superior a second time in 1735.
During this period from 1732 to 1738 Marie-Joseph de l’Enfant-Jésus, with the permission of the court, tried more or less successfully to set up a sort of “hôtel des invalides” or army pensioners’ hospital. The plan was to attract to the Hôpital Général soldiers unfit for service, who were lodged here and there in the country with habitants or who were in hospitals in Montreal or Quebec. Since the king made an annual payment to the habitant or the hospital equivalent to half pay for the disabled soldier, it is easy to understand that the undertaking appeared interesting to the nuns of the Hôpital Général as a means of supporting their work.
With the 1738 elections Marie-Joseph Juchereau relinquished her office as superior, as was normal after two consecutive three-year terms, but she continued to carry out important functions in the community, since she was elected depositary and discreet, along with Marie-Thérèse Langlois. Once more eligible in 1741, Marie-Joseph Juchereau was re-elected superior, replacing Marie-Charlotte de Ramezay, dite de Saint-Claude de la Croix. Once more she remained at the head of the community for two three-year periods.
The affair of the episcopal palace was definitively settled during her administration. As Saint-Vallier’s sole legatees the nuns laid claim, from 1728 on, to the episcopal palace, which, according to Bishop Dosquet* and Bishop Mornay [Duplessis], had belonged to the late bishop. In her capacity as superior Marie-Joseph de l’Enfant-Jésus intervened directly in the conflict in 1737, setting forth her point of view to Maurepas, the minister of Marine. She pointed out the injustice of making the nuns pay for repairs to the abbeys which were attached to the episcopal seat and asked for repayment of 10,000 livres. She defended herself so well that the minister decided in favour of the community, which claimed ownership only of the palace. Nevertheless, in 1743, after indemnifying the Hôpital Général, the court reunited the palace to the king’s domain.
Marie-Joseph Juchereau assumed the office of depositary and discreet again in 1747, leaving the administration of the house to Marie-Joseph Legardeur de Repentigny, dite de la Visitation. The latter resigned her office at the end of her three-year term, and Marie-Joseph de l’Enfant-Jésus was again elected in 1750 and 1753. At the end of this last term of office she handed the direction of the community over to Marie-Charlotte de Ramezay and became assistant superior. Finally, in 1759, she was re-elected superior for the seventh and last time. Marie-Joseph had little opportunity to carry out her duties, for she died on 20 Nov. 1760, at 61 years of age, when the Hôpital Général of Quebec was suffering the painful consequences of the Seven Years’ War.
Of all the nuns of the Hôpital Général of Quebec during the whole of the 18th century, it was Marie-Joseph Juchereau Duchesnay who held the office of superior for the longest period, for 19 of her 45 years of religious life, beginning with her profession.
AHGQ, Actes capitulaires, 12, 16; “Annales”; Registre des entrées et des dots. AJQ, Registre d’état civil, Notre-Dame-de-Miséricorde de Beauport, 20 févr. 1699. AN, Col., B, 66, f.35; 76, ff.101, 104; C11A, 54, f.36; 107, ff.397, 404. Mgr de Saint-Vallier et l’Hôpital Général, 301–3.