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LE MOYNE DE SAINTE-MARIE, MARGUERITE, dite du Saint-Esprit, sister of the Congregation of Notre-Dame, superior of the community (superior general); b. 3 Feb. 1664 in Montreal, daughter of Jacques Le Moyne de Sainte-Marie and Mathurine Godé; d. 21 Feb. 1746 at Montreal.

Through her father and mother Marguerite Le Moyne de Sainte-Marie belonged to two of the founding families of Ville-Marie. She was the fifth child in the family, and with her sisters she was a pupil of the Congregation of Notre-Dame. When she was 16 she asked to be received into the community; her sister Françoise, five years her senior, had already been admitted.

After making her profession in 1682, Marguerite Le Moyne taught at Ville-Marie, then at the La Montagne mission. She was only 24 when she was appointed probation mistress, with the responsibility of receiving new arrivals to the congregation and preparing them for the religious life. She carried out this office intelligently and zealously for ten years. In 1698 she participated with the Montreal community in the ceremonies accompanying the granting of official approval of the rules and the solemn pronouncement of the religious vows [see Marie Barbier*]. In the elections which immediately followed, Marguerite Le Moyne, dite du Saint-Esprit, was chosen superior of the congregation, succeeding Sister Marie Barbier. She was the third superior of the institution founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys*, and she held the office four times, from 1698 to 1708, 1711 to 1717, 1719 to 1722, and 1729 to 1732. Thus the annalist of the community remarked in her conclusion: “To be elected so many times to this office is a proof of my Sister Lemoyne’s rare qualities and of the sincere esteem she enjoyed in the minds of all the Sisters.”

Numerous events marked the life and work within the congregation during Sister Le Moyne’s long superiorship. The most important of these events concerned Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*], who, moved by the spirit of reform of the Council of Trent, tried by every means to transform the congregation into a regular, cloistered religious community. One of Sister Le Moyne’s early actions after her first election was to reject a proposal to found a noviciate at Quebec. Bishop Saint-Vallier was repeating in 1702 a request he had made in 1698, when Mother Bourgeoys was alive and to which she had given no support. Sister Le Moyne wanted thus to remain faithful to the spirit of the foundress, especially as she was afraid of dividing forces still young and few in number between two institutions.

In 1720 the superior was more favourable to the bishop’s recommendations concerning the liturgical life of the community. As nuns associated with the parish, the sisters up till then had had no sung service in their chapel other than that of the Visitation, which was the feast-day of their order, and the evening services on the main feast-days of the Virgin. At Saint-Vallier’s invitation the sisters borrowed “the practices of the most holy communities”: they commenced the custom of singing motets accompanied by music on the great religious feast-days and hymns on other occasions, such as the feast-day of their superior.

Another time when Bishop Saint-Vallier interfered, Sister Le Moyne opposed him. In a letter dated 15 Feb. 1722 the bishop forbade the sisters to accept anyone into the community without his “especial and written” permission and without a dowry of 2,000 livres. Such instructions were contrary to the spirit of the foundress, who had wanted her congregation to be autonomous, poor, and open to all classes of society. But the superior had to comply with the bishop’s wishes.

It was again Sister Le Moyne who in 1729 received Bishop Dosquet*’s strict recommendations concerning the sisters’ conduct towards the parish priests and missionaries. Designed to keep “regularity and good order” in the missions, these recommendations were the source of an attitude that has often divided the craftsmen of a common evangelical work.

While attentive to the internal life of the community she directed, Sister Le Moyne was also occupied with the teaching work of the congregation. Under her administration three houses were founded: Boucherville in 1703, Prairie-de-la-Madeleine (Laprairie) in 1705, and Pointe-aux-Trembles (Neuville) in 1716. Two former missions were taken over again: Lachine in 1701, and Champlain in 1702. The mission at La Montagne was moved to Sault-au-Récollet in 1701, then in 1721 from Montreal Island to Lac des Deux-Montagnes. Finally, it was during Sister Le Moyne’s term of office that the congregation acquired in 1707 the fief of La Noue on Île Saint-Paul, the first third of what was to become the famous “Île des Soeurs.”

After she gave up the government of the congregation in 1732 Sister Le Moyne lived for 14 more years in the community. Descended from a family which had seen the birth and growth of Vine-Marie, imbued with the spirit of Mother Bourgeoys, whom she had known well, she became for the colony and her community a veritable living legend. Her death, on 21 Feb. 1746, was consequently felt as a great loss by her sisters and the population of Ville-Marie.

Andrée Désilets

ACND, La Congrégation de Notre-Dame: son personnel, 1653–1768; Fichier général des sœurs de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame; Plans des lieux de sépulture depuis 1681-CND; Registre des sépultures des sœurs de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame; Registre général des sœurs de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame de Montréal. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Sister Saint Ignatius [Catherine Jane] Doyle, Marguerite Bourgeoys and her congregation (Gardenvale, Que., 1940). Lemire-Marsolais et Lambert, Histoire de to Congrégation de Notre-Dame. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Le Moyne de Sainte-Marie et Le Moyne de Martigny,” BRH, XXIII (1917), 125–27.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Andrée Désilets, “LE MOYNE DE SAINTE-MARIE, MARGUERITE, du Saint-Esprit,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 21, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/le_moyne_de_sainte_marie_marguerite_3E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/le_moyne_de_sainte_marie_marguerite_3E.html
Author of Article:   Andrée Désilets
Title of Article:   LE MOYNE DE SAINTE-MARIE, MARGUERITE, du Saint-Esprit
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1974
Year of revision:   1974
Access Date:   May 21, 2024