MAUGUE-GARREAU, MARIE-JOSÈPHE, dite de l’Assomption, sister of the Congregation of Notre-Dame and superior of the community (superior general); baptized 30 Dec. 1720 in Montreal (Que.), daughter of Marie-Anne Maugue and Pierre Garreau, dit Saint-Onge; d. there 16 Aug. 1785.
Marie-Josèphe was the first Maugue-Garreau in Canada. Her name derived from the linking of the family names of her mother, the daughter of Claude Maugue*, clerk of court at Montreal, and of her father. She and other children of Marie-Anne and Pierre Garreau were called Maugue-Garreau to distinguish them from the children of Pierre and his first wife.
Marie-Josèphe entered the noviciate of the Congregation of Notre-Dame in Montreal in 1738 and made her profession two years later as Sister de l’Assomption, the name Marie Barbier* had borne. When the contract of her profession was signed on 22 Dec. 1740 some 20 days after her father’s death, her mother promised to pay the community a dowry of 2,000 livres. In 1766, after 26 years of service, Sister de l’Assomption was elected to replace Marie-Marguerite Piot de Langloiserie, dite Saint-Hippolyte, as superior general. Like her predecessor, she had to contend with the prevailing poverty and try to reorganize the community’s temporal affairs. Sister de l’Assomption’s correspondence with Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu, vicar general in France for the colonies, and with the new procurator general for the community in France, Jean-Louis Maury, reveals the financial losses it had suffered. In the 1763 liquidation of “Canada paper,” bills of exchange had been reduced to half their face value, and orders for payment, card money, and certificates to a quarter. As a result the community had lost 7,700 livres on bills of exchange, more than 12,500 livres on orders for payment and card money certified in France, and nearly 20,000 livres on orders for payment and certificates declared in Canada. In 1770 a royal decree lowered the interest rate on all Canadian assets in France from four to two and a half per cent, putting them in the same category as securities held in France. The correspondence also lists the stocks and securities that the community then held in France, as well as its annual income from them. This income was steadily diminishing, a development that could only make more critical the situation created by war and the conquest.
Sister de l’Assomption’s administrative problems were compounded by the fire that on 11 April 1768 destroyed part of Montreal, including the house and church the community had reconstructed after the fire of 1683. The sisters found refuge at the Hôtel-Dieu, where the “salle Royale” was divided “by using curtains and blankets, into various parts which became dormitories, classrooms, an infirmary, a common room.” There they continued to teach their boarders and day pupils. On 8 September they returned to their house, which had been rebuilt and enlarged by a storey as a result of many gifts amounting to about 50,000 livres. To provide the additional sums needed for the reconstruction and for the organization of a school for day pupils, the sisters had to sell some land, as well as silver cutlery, cups, and goblets. They also gave up the services of a doctor, for which they were paying 200 livres a year, “until some serious malady should strike them unexpectedly.” The community was soon confronted with a new worry. The increasing poverty of the population meant that there were fewer and fewer boarders. To ensure that “the order not slow down” the sisters had to resign themselves to taking day boarders, a solution they had been reluctant to accept. In 1769 the community’s situation prevented their making a financial contribution to the rebuilding of the mission in Lower Town, which had been destroyed during the siege of Quebec [see Marie Raizenne*, dite Saint-Ignace].
It was probably these difficulties that prompted Sister de l’Assomption to concentrate the community’s real estate in one area in order to put it to greater profit. She sold nearly all the lands acquired by the community as legacies of various sisters and decided to purchase the fief of Saint-Paul, which was being put up for auction. This fief, which covered two-thirds of Île Saint-Paul (Île des Sœurs), was close to the fief of La Noue at Pointe-Saint-Charles, which the nuns already owned through purchase and through a donation by Jeanne Le Ber*. They acted through an intermediary, Étienne Augé, to whom the fief was sold for 832 louis on 16 Aug. 1769. A few people challenged the ensuing sale before Governor Guy Carleton*. But having given Sister de l’Assomption verbal permission to acquire the property, Carleton ratified his authorization with a document bearing his signature and seal. The immense farm on Île Saint-Paul and the sharecropping farm at Pointe-Saint-Charles together constituted a veritable agricultural complex.
During Sister de l’Assomption’s term as superior the community maintained its spiritual life through the momentum built up during the first hundred years of its existence. Financial difficulties forced the nun to bring all her efforts to bear upon the community’s temporal organization. She did so in an innovative spirit and with business acumen.
ACND, Fichier général; Personnel, III; Registre général. ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 30 déc. 1720. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, IV, 170; V, 578. Galarneau, La France devant l’opinion canadienne. Lemire-Marsolais et Lambert, Hist. de la CND de Montréal, V. Claude Lessard, “L’aide financière donnée par l’Église de France à l’Église naissante du Canada,” RHAF, XV (1961–62), 171–88.