CHARLY SAINT-ANGE, MARIE-CATHERINE, dite du Saint-Sacrement, known in religion, in the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, as Sister Saint-Ange and from 1700 on as Sister du Saint-Sacrement; b. 1666 at Ville-Marie; superior general of the Congrégation, 1708–11, 1717–19; d. at Ville-Marie 1719.
Her father, André Charly, dit Saint-Ange, originally from the parish of Saint-Gervais in Paris, arrived in 1651 in Montreal, where he acquired and farmed a piece of land near the river. In 1654 he married Marie Dumesnil. Four of their daughters belonged to the community founded by Sister Bourgeoys*.
Catherine joined the young community when she was 13 and became one of its most active and influential members. She was only 27 when she was elected counsellor to the new superior, Sister Marie Barbier. Five years later she was entrusted with the office of novice-mistress. In 1698, when each sister of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame gave up her family name to assume a name in religion, Sister Charly chose that of Sister Saint-Ange.
Catherine Charly’s memory is forever linked with that of Sister Bourgeoys’ death in January 1700. An account based upon the letters of the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, which are reproduced by Glandelet in his monograph, tells us that, upon learning that Sister Saint-Ange was going to die, Sister Bourgeoys prayed God to take her in place of this young sister; some days later, when Sister Saint-Ange had recovered her health, Sister Bourgeoys died. As a mark of gratitude Sister Saint-Ange called herself Sister du Saint-Sacrement, the name in religion which Sister Bourgeoys had taken in 1698.
Elected superior-general in 1708, Sister Charly, dite du Saint-Sacrement, proved to be a woman of remarkable wisdom in the face of great difficulties which threatened the community at that time. Vaudreuil [Rigaud] and Jacques Raudot, who were aware of Bishop Saint-Vallier’s [La Croix] desire to make the Congrégation de Notre-Dame a cloistered community and who disapproved of it, wrote to Pontchartrain to obtain a formal written interdiction of this project. But the king’s reply went beyond the expectations of the governor and the intendant, who thus unintentionally jeopardized the stability of the Congrégation. The minister replied in fact that His Majesty would never allow his sisters to be cloistered or to take vows, and that if they were doing so, he insisted that the minister forbid it. But the privilege of taking vows, which had been granted the Congrégation de Notre-Dame in 1698, ensured the community of a prestige and stability which facilitated the recruiting of members. The annals of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame have preserved the letters which were written by Sister Catherine Charly to Pontchartrain, Bishop Saint-Vallier, and the Marquise de Maintenon, whom she asked “to use her influence with the King.” In these letters she shows herself to be admirably adroit: while using very respectful formulae, she succeeds in expressing clearly her desire to see His Majesty continue to forbid the sisters to be cloistered but not forbid them to take vows. The king did not grant her request, but the superior-general was sufficiently skilful to get around the difficulty; in agreement with the civil and ecclesiastical authorities of the country she continued to have simple vows pronounced, but in secret. After the king’s death and Pontchartrain’s departure, Raudot was instructed by the ministry of Marine to settle virtually by himself all these matters concerning Canada, which put an end to the intervention by the government of France in the question of the nuns’ vows.
Sister Catherine Charly was re-elected superior in 1717 and had to cope with pecuniary difficulties during this period. She died in the exercise of this office in January 1719.
ACND, Charles Glandelet, Le vray esprit de Marguerite Bourgeoys et de l’Institut des sœurs séculières de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame établie à Ville-Marie en L’Isle de Montréal en Canada, 1701. ANDM, Registres des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures. [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., Ville-Marie [Montréal ], 1853). Albert Jamet, Marguerite Bourgeoys, 1620–1700 (2v., Montréal, 1942). “La famille Charly Saint-Ange,” BRH, LI (1945), 91–105.