TASCHEREAU, MARIE-ANNE-LOUISE, named de Saint-François-Xavier, Ursuline, teacher, and superior; b. 18 Oct. 1743 at Quebec, daughter of Thomas-Jacques Taschereau* and Marie-Claire de Fleury de La Gorgendière, and sister of Gabriel-Elzéar Taschereau*; d. there 16 March 1825.
Marie-Anne-Louise Taschereau descended on her father’s side from a family that had been ennobled around 1492 and was settled in Tours, France. Her father, who had come to New France in 1726, was agent of the treasurers general of the Marine and a member of the Conseil Supérieur. His prestigious offices and his marriage with Marie-Claire de Fleury de La Gorgendière, who came from a wealthy family [see Joseph de Fleury* de La Gorgendière], linked him closely with the Canadian nobility.
By the time Marie-Anne-Louise was born, her father had been the owner of Sainte-Marie seigneury for seven years and was busy developing it. He was, however, to die at Quebec on 25 Sept. 1749, leaving a young widow with eight children, albeit well provided for. Marie-Anne-Louise was immediately sent to the Ursuline school. A child with the best of dispositions and a quick, bright mind, she was the joy of her family and her instructors. At ten she entered the boarding school, where her excellent qualities blossomed, but at that time she showed no inclination for the cloister. On the contrary, her lively imagination made her look forward to the pleasures of restored freedom when she left school.
Quebec was returning to its usual tempo after the disruptions of the conquest. The brilliant and animated social round, with innumerable receptions and balls, was well suited to make wealthy young people completely happy. Although she was deeply pious, the attraction of the world and its pleasures held Marie-Anne-Louise until she was 20. During Lent in 1764 Father Marin-Louis Le Franc, a French Jesuit who had come back from Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.), preached the great novena to St Francis Xavier from 4 to 12 March, probably in the Ursuline chapel, which was still being used as the parish church. An eloquent preacher, he urged the faithful to choose between the good life and the better one. It was at this time that Marie-Anne-Louise felt strongly drawn to serve God and her fellows. Struck by the futility of the hours given to worldly pleasures, she went to seek the preacher’s counsel, and finally decided to devote herself to discipleship. Since it was not in her nature to let matters drag, within a few weeks of taking her decision and informing her family, she bravely entered the Ursuline convent on 13 May 1764 as a postulant. In August she took the religious habit as Sister Marie-Anne-Louise de Saint-François-Xavier, adopting the name of a saint whose zeal and devotion she longed to imitate. She was one of the first novices since the conquest and she took her religious vows on 12 Aug. 1766 in the presence of Bishop Jean-Olivier Briand*.
The new sister applied herself to overcoming her high-spirited nature and impetuous character through the efficacious practice of self-denial. Faithful in everything, she soon became known as “a living rule.” She was inclined above all to fill herself with the spirit of the older nuns, admiring their gracious austerity, their edifying simplicity of manner, their devotion to prayer and work.
The boarding-school had been re-established in 1761–62, and Marie-Anne-Louise de Saint-François-Xavier devoted herself to teaching. She soon became mistress in charge of studies, an office she held for six years, to the great satisfaction of all. At the same time she served as vestry nun. Her particular talent for business affairs was recognized and the authorities took her out of teaching, appointing her bursar in 1787. Frightened at the magnitude of the temporal responsibilities and at the requirements for good bookkeeping as well as for sound administration, she unburdened herself to her brother, Gabriel-Elzéar, who reassured her. Although as seigneur he lived at Sainte-Marie, personal matters and the tasks entrusted to him frequently brought him to Quebec. In the winter of 1788 he set about reorganizing the Ursulines’ affairs. During the time that his sister held successive appointments as either bursar or superior, he kept an eye on the community’s property.
Elected superior of the community in 1793, Marie-Anne-Louise de Saint-François-Xavier held this office until 1799. Six years later she was chosen for another term, which was renewed in 1808 for three years. She held the office again from 1815 till 1818. Nevertheless it was not all smooth sailing. In 1807 there was a lawsuit against George Waters Allsopp* over crossing rights in the barony of Portneuf, which the Ursulines owned, and the case was lost. The question of the amount of the nuns’ dowries had to be discussed, as well as the deposit of donations received. Then again, the superior and her council had to deal with the repairs and extensions needed for the classrooms. In 1807 Marie-Anne-Louise de Saint-François-Xavier had the church, house, and vestments insured against fire, in order to have a little money to rebuild if necessary.
With the death in 1809 of the seigneur Taschereau, the Ursulines lost a great benefactor who, in their view, had truly put their temporal affairs in order. Subsequently his son-in-law, judge Olivier Perrault, took a deep interest in the management of the community’s assets, and he too rendered great services. Another good friend of the Ursulines, Philippe-Jean-Louis Desjardins, had left Lower Canada in 1802. For more than 30 years this priest’s correspondence strengthened the bonds between the nuns and their relatives in France. The pious Desjardins got in touch with Marie-Anne-Louise de Saint-François-Xavier’s brother, Charles-Antoine Taschereau, who had been taken prisoner at Montreal in 1760 and sent to France and who maintained a close correspondence with his sister. Charles-Antoine advised the Ursulines to bring their annuities back from France and to that end requested a power of attorney for Desjardins. As the years went by, there was an exchange of gifts ranging from reliquaries to handcrafted articles.
Open to consultation, disciplined, highly intelligent, Marie-Anne-Louise de Saint-François-Xavier adhered firmly to decisions once they had been taken. The administrative talent that she showed did not diminish her fervour or attentiveness to religious duties. In 1815 she was the third superior to celebrate her golden jubilee while in office. Over the course of her years as superior she presided with her council over the admission of 30 novices; only 3 of them did not persevere in the community. The desired replacements were thus assured. After 1818 she held the offices of zelatrice and assistant superior, continuing to serve the community with her experience and good advice. She passed away at 81 years of age on 16 March 1825 after catching a cold. Her death was deeply mourned by her family and her numerous friends.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 18 oct. 1743. Arch. du monastère des ursulines (Québec), Actes d’élections des supérieures; Actes des assemblées capitulaires, 1; Annales, II: 37–39; Cahiers des charges; Conclusions des assemblées des discrètes, l; Terrier de la seigneurie de Portneuf; Terrier de la seigneurie de Sainte-Croix. Allaire, Dictionnaire, vol.1. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, 2: 697–98. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, 7: 263. [Catherine Burke, dite de Saint-Thomas], Les ursulines de Québec, depuis leur établissement jusqu’à nos jours (4v., Québec, 1863–66), 4: 648–54. [Joséphine Holmes, named de Sainte-Croix], Glimpses of the monastery, scenes from the history of the Ursulines of Quebec during two hundred years, 1639–1839 . . . (2nd ed., Quebec, 1897), 166–72. Provost, Sainte-Marie; hist. civile, 33–57. P.-G. Roy, La famille Taschereau (Lévis, Qué., 1901).