CÉLORON, MARIE-CATHERINE-FRANÇOISE, Religious Hospitaller of St Joseph, superior of the Hôtel-Dieu in Montreal (Que.); b. 15 Aug. 1744 in Montreal, elder daughter of Pierre-Joseph Céloron* de Blainville and Catherine Eury de La Pérelle; d. there 26 May 1809.
Marie-Catherine-Françoise Céloron was only 14 when her father died. Two years later, on 4 Nov. 1761, she became a boarder with the Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général of Montreal (Grey Nuns), paying 100 livres a year for her board. Her mother and her sister Marie-Madeleine also entered the community but, whereas they took the veil there, Marie-Catherine-Françoise left the Hôpital Général on 11 April 1762 to begin her noviciate at the Hôtel-Dieu the next day; she was not yet 18. The community accepted her without any financial conditions, since her dowry was to come from an endowment. On 9 Feb. 1763 she donned the white veil, and on 18 October the habit. On 23 Oct. 1764 she took her vows.
Marie-Catherine-Françoise Céloron was a tall, pretty woman, with a good education and fluent command of both French and English, valuable assets later when the authority of the community was vested in her. In addition she was lively and quick-witted, as her correspondence with her cousin Ignace-Michel-Louis-Antoine d’Irumberry* de Salaberry shows.
During her 47 years of religious life Sister Céloron was called upon to fulfil a number of responsibilities and in discharging them she always proved a model for her companions. After her noviciate, and for 33 years, she carried out the duties of domestic bursar, which consisted mainly of looking after the property of the community and the hospital, attending to the upkeep and cleanliness of the premises, supervising the work of the kitchen and the laundry, ensuring supplies of wood, water, and wine, and looking after the storing, proper use, and distribution of the fruit, vegetables, grain, and meat. From 1797 to 1800 she was a hospital nun, a post that was considered very important and that required extensive experience and recognized authority. Sister Céloron had to admit the sick, have them looked after according to the doctors’ instructions, maintain quiet and order in the wards, and assign tasks to the sisters responsible for nursing care.
In 1800 Sister Céloron was elected assistant to the superior. Apparently her administrative abilities were appreciated, since she was elected superior on 9 July 1805 and re-elected on 9 July 1808. From a financial standpoint, the years during which she held that office were the worst the hospitallers had to go through. As a result of the French revolution the community was deprived of the interest on its investments in France and thus was without a vital part of the income necessary for its upkeep. To remedy this drop in income the nuns set up various money-making projects, including a bakery and works for making candles and soap; they also did various kinds of gilding and embroidery. During these difficult years Sister Céloron showed great wisdom and no less skill in the temporal and spiritual administration of the community. On 26 May 1809, at the age of 64, Marie-Catherine-Françoise Céloron died in the convent of the Hôtel-Dieu after a painful illness.
ANQ-M, CE1-51, 15 août 1744; CE1-141, 26 mai 1809. ANQ-Q, P1000-19-347. Arch. des Religieuses hospitalières de Saint-Joseph (Montréal), Affaires temporelles de la communauté, comptes rendus triennaux; Vie religieuse de la communauté, annales; Entrées, vêtures, professions et décès; Reg. des délibérations faites dans les assemblées capitulaires. Arch. des sœurs grises (Montréal), Reg. de l’entrée des pauvres de l’Hôpital Général de Montréal, 1694–1796: 47, 54, 60; Reg. de l’entrée des sœurs grises de Montréal, 1737–1889: 4–5. AUM, P 58, U, Céloron à de Salaberry, 15 août, 16 sept., 30 déc. 1805; 29 déc. 1806; 29 déc. 1807. [É.-M. Faillon], Vie de Mlle Mance et histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Villemarie dans l’île de Montréal, en Canada (2v., Villemarie [Montréal], 1854), 2: 285–308. L’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal (1642–1973) (Montréal, 1973). P.-G. Roy, La famille Céloron de Blainville (Lévis, Qué., 1909), 47; La famille d’Irumberry de Salaberry (Lévis, 1905), 130–44.