JUCHEREAU DE LA FERTÉ, JEANNE-FRANÇOISE, dite de Saint-Ignace, superior of the Religious Hospitallers of the Hôtel-Dieu at Quebec and author of Les Annales de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, 1636–1716; b. at Quebec on 1 May 1650, the daughter of Jean Juchereau* de La Ferté, and of Marie Giffard; d. 14 Jan. 1723.
Her religious name was given her by her aunt, Mother Marie-Françoise Giffard*, dite Marie de Saint-Ignace, who had called the six-and-a-half year-old girl to her deathbed to bless her and to impress upon her that one day she would take her place at the Hôtel-Dieu. Jeanne-Françoise set aside her mother’s dissuasion and prevailed on her to take her to Bishop Laval to receive his blessing before entering the monastery on 22 April 1662. She was too young to be accepted as a novice but was permitted to remain as a boarder. Two years later she assumed the novice’s white veil and her religious name of Saint-Ignace.
On 8 March 1670 she was named by Bishop Laval to her first position of responsibility within the community; she became trustee of the alms for the poor. She was named trustee for the entire community on 14 Oct. 1673. Her responsibilities increased rapidly: on 1 Dec. 1676 she was appointed assistant to the ailing superior, Mother Marie-Renée de la Nativité; on 19 Dec. 1680 she was elected mistress of the novices for a three-year term; then on 13 Dec. 1683 she was elected superior of her monastery although she was only 33 years old. She was superior for a total of 24 years and assistant for another 12 years.
While superior of the Hôtel-Dieu Mother Juchereau encouraged piety and self-sacrifice, steadfastly promoted policies she believed to be in the best interests of the sisters, and defended orthodoxy. Under her direction, devotions to the Sacred Heart of Mary were introduced in the monastery in 1690, a cult sponsored in France by Jean Eudes and approved in the colony by her counsellors, Bishop Laval and the Abbé Henri de Bernières*. On her re-election as superior in March 1702 she instituted the custom of kissing the feet and hands of the Virgin’s statue in recognition of her honorary role as first superior of the community. When the Ursulines were without lodgings Mother Juchereau invited them to share the facilities of the Hôtel-Dieu and personally accompanied them to their new convent when it was completed. Her labours during the epidemics of influenza, measles, and fevers which ravaged New France in 1688 drew high commendation from Governor Brisay de Denonville. These labours were to be repeated during the epidemics of 1703 and 1711. Her kindness and charity were demonstrated in the hospitality extended to Sarah Garrish, an English girl ransomed from the Abenakis who had killed her family and enslaved her, and to a renegade Benedictine. She was scandalized, however, when she discovered the latter held Jansenist views and she quickly rose to the defence of orthodoxy. In 1694 she asked the bishop to remove the Abbé André de Merlac* as counsellor because of his Jansenism and misconduct, and again in 1718 she warned her sisters against the “venom of heresy.”
One incident may serve to illustrate her willingness to defend her monastery against whatever she considered detrimental to its development. In 1692 Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix] suggested that the Hospitallers assume charge of the Hôpital Général founded at the former Recollet monastery of Notre-Dame-des-Anges one league from Quebec [see Marguerite Bourdon]. Mother Juchereau refused, saying her sisters were called to minister to the sick in Quebec, not elsewhere. When ordered by Versailles to comply she nevertheless did so with good grace and accompanied four sisters (April 1693) to the Hôpital Général, where she remained for a week assisting in its organization. In 1699 Saint-Vallier called for the services of 12 Hospitallers at the Hôpital Général and requested an annual annuity of 1,200 livres for this purpose. When Mother Juchereau again refused to cooperate he manipulated the elections of 20 March to prevent her obtaining any office. Resentment built up between the sisters in the Hôtel-Dieu and those in the Hôpital Général, institutions which were separated on 7 April 1699. Mother Juchereau appealed to the minister of Marine through the good offices of the retired Bishop Laval. In the more peaceful elections of 1700 she was chosen assistant and shortly thereafter communications from France indicated Pontchartrain supported her in her quarrel with Bishop Saint-Vallier. She then played a key role in bringing about a reconciliation between the sisters at the Hôtel-Dieu and those at the Hôpital Général.
Shortly after her election as superior for an eighth term in 1713 Mother Juchereau was struck down by a high fever and paralysis which kept her bed-ridden for years. She was increasingly troubled by catarrh until her death in January 1723. Though reduced to physical inactivity she employed some of the time between 1716 and 1722 in dictating to Mother Regnard* Duplessis de Sainte-Hélène a general history of the monastery and of the colony to 1716. Her Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec was published at Montauban in 1752 and republished as Les Annales de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, 1636-1716 in Quebec in 1939. This important primary source for 17th century history provides details about certain personalities and events not found elsewhere, yet is strangely silent on other points.
Mother Juchereau was devout, intelligent, methodical in her work, and as Denonville observed, “very reasonable, of admirable wisdom and conduct.” She was the first Canadian-born superior of her order and the most outstanding member of the second generation of these sisters. Her portrait is at the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec.
AHDQ, Lettres, I; Mélanges, IX. AN, Col., C11A, 7. Juchereau et Duplessis, Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec; Annales (Jamet). Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. The Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography, ed. W. S. Wallace (Toronto, 1963). Casgrain, Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec.