GAUDÉ (Godé, Gaudet), FRANÇOISE, nun, Religious Hospitaller of Saint-Joseph, superior; b. 16 April 1671 in Montreal, daughter of Nicolas Gaudé, a carpenter, and of Marguerite Picard; d. 15 Jan. 1751 in Montreal.
Françoise Gaudé entered the noviciate of the Nuns Hospitallers of Saint-Joseph in Montreal in 1690 and made her profession there in 1692. After the death of the superior, Charlotte Gallard*, in 1725, Françoise Gaudé, who had been her assistant, was entrusted with the destinies of the community and the responsibility for the hospital work. She took over this office at a critical moment: the reconstruction of the buildings of the Hôtel-Dieu of Montreal, destroyed by fire in 1721, had not yet been completed, expenses kept increasing steadily, and revenues were diminishing. Sister Gaudé carried out her duties energetically until 1731, when she was replaced by Geneviève Levasseur. In 1733 she was again elected superior. During this second term of office a third fire devastated the Hôtel-Dieu of Montreal [see Marie-Joseph-Angélique*] during the night of 10-11 April 1734. The convent and the church were destroyed and the nuns found themselves once more without shelter. The losses were enormous: the furniture, the vestry linen, the articles for sale (the money from which was to be used to provide for the needs of the sick and the nuns), the supplies on hand, the register of minutes and of persons taking the veil or making their profession, all were destroyed in the fire. The consecrated vessels of the church were saved, however, and the damage to the hospital, particularly to the pharmacy, was less serious. As Sister Marie-Anne-Véronique Cuillerier wrote, Sister Gaudé “took vigorous action to seek relief for us, but what could she do, since she had nothing?” This declaration by the annalist shows clearly the wretched state in which the Nuns Hospitallers found themselves at the time. On the second day after the fire they separated into three groups, for that, it seems, was the only way to find temporary lodgings. A number of the sisters took up their abode in the old bakery of the hospital, others, who were invalids, had to go to a house in the country belonging to the sick – that is to say, forming part of the property of the Hôtel-Dieu separate from that of the community – and the third group sought shelter at the Saint-Joachim farm. Several months after their separation the Hospitallers came together again in a new dwelling belonging to Jacques Testard* de Montigny and located near the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours.
Misfortune, however, again struck the Nuns Hospitallers in 1734. One of the king’s ships, on which were soldiers who had been stricken with a malignant and contagious fever, had berthed at Quebec. Those passengers who were considered to be “out of danger” were sent on to Montreal. But upon arriving in Montreal on 11 November a soldier fell ill and was taken to the Hôtel-Dieu. This was the beginning of an epidemic, and nine Nuns Hospitallers died of it. The community thus went through trying times, and Sister Cuillerier has left this touching account: “I should exhaust all my stock of expressions, my dear Sisters, if I tried to describe to you the great grief in which we found ourselves . . . our tears sprinkled our bread and our beds night and day at having lost such good members . . . it was impossible to sing any of the offices. The gentlemen of the seminary did us this kind service and buried all our sisters in the chapel of Bon Secours, which belongs to them. All the coffins were sealed so that no one would catch the infection, and such precautions were taken in town that no one passed by the street where we were; people simply asked from a distance if sisters were still dying, and were told in reply how things were.”
Throughout these trials Sister Gaudé continued seeing to the efficient functioning of her community and the hospital and received new novices. As a result of a report favouring increased aid for the Hôtel-Dieu sent by Governor Charles de Beauharnois and Intendant Gilles Hocquart*, the king allowed, in addition to a gratuity of 10,000 livres, an annual grant of 1,500 livres to be made until the work of rebuilding was completed. On 28 Sept. 1735, 18 months after the fire, the nuns and the sick returned to the Hôtel-Dieu.
In 1739 Sister Françoise Gaudé was replaced in her office by Anne-Françoise Leduc, dite Saint-Joseph. She died on 15 Jan. 1751. She had directed the community in difficult periods, and her courage, her initiative, and her sense of responsibility led to her being called “ a heroine of the Institution” in the annals of the Hôtel-Dieu.
AHSJ, Annales de sœur Marie Morin, 1697–1725; Annales de sœur Véronique Cuillerier, 1725–1747; Déclaration de nos anciennes Mères pour constater la profession et le décès de nos sœurs. Mondoux, L’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal.