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Spirituality and Vocation

« It seems to me that we do not pay enough attention to prayer, for unless it arises from the heart which ought to be its center, it is no more than a fruitless dream. Prayer ought to carry over into our words, our thoughts and our actions »
The Writings of Marguerite Bourgeoys

Carried by the spirituality of Visitation and of Pentecost dear to Marguerite Bourgeoys, the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame and associates anchor in their life of prayer, the action to respond to the needs of the world.

Spirituality of
Visitation and
of Pentecost

At the age of twenty, Marguerite Bourgeoys experienced a strong and spiritually significant moment that led her to put herself at the service of God. She began this commitment in action by joining a group of external lay teachers affiliated with the Congrégation Notre-Dame of Troyes in France. These young girls went to disadvantaged neighbourhoods at the time.

As time passed, Marguerite’s life project became clearer. She felt called to imitate the life of the Blessed Virgin and to form a religious community. In this way, she was inspired by the spirituality of Mary, especially in the narratives of the Visitation and of Pentecost.

In the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, the way that Mary goes toward the other and is present with the other was the source of inspiration. This story is at the heart of the spirituality of service, presence and hospitality of the Congregation.

The narrative of Pentecost refers to the life of Mary among the apostles, in the first Christian community. From it emerges the sense of community, participation in the Church and in the transformation of society, as well as the invitation to use the gifts received for the service of others.

These texts from the Gospel, and the reflections that they bring, are at the centre of the spiritual rooting of Marguerite herself, of the sisters of the Congregation that she founded and of the associates of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame.

Living the Charism of Marguerite Bourgeoys Today

by Denise Lamarche, CND

What is meant by charism? A charism is an inspirational force, a dynamic commitment with a perspective that mobilizes, a gift, a skill, an ability to carry out part of a mission and the capability to act or to bear witness. In short, it is a gift from the Holy Spirit for the common good.

That is the message conveyed as we reread Chapter 4, verse 11 of the Letter to the Ephesians. The different gifts or charisms listed in this verse, those of being apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, are not, so to speak, gifts given strictly to the persons who receive them.
They receive these gifts “to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”(Eph 4:12).

Marguerite Bourgeoys, bearer of charism

In 1653, a woman named Marguerite Bourgeoys came to our country from Troyes, France. She was filled with a great charism, that of education.

She came to New France to join Jeanne Mance and Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve in order to open a school for the settlers’ children. However, due to the very harsh climate, children died at a very young age. Therefore, it was not until 1658 that she was able to open her first school.

During the five years when she could not teach the children, she did not bury her charism, her talent for education. Rather, she used it elsewhere and differently than in a school, by teaching men and women about family life, civic life and Christian life.

With her companion, Catherine Crolo, she welcomed the King’s Wards and taught them how to be good wives and mothers. She gathered men to raise the cross on Mount Royal and to build Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel.

By these actions and in her role as a school teacher, which she practised as soon as she could, Marguerite Bourgeoys sought to raise people up so that they would, in turn, raise up others. Today, according to Paulo Freire, this is called liberating education.

The sisters perpetuate liberating education

The sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame have been teachers for a very long time. They have educated generations of young people in primary and secondary schools, in classical colleges and in universities. Other sisters responsible for cooking and cleaning taught housekeeping to the young girls who helped them.

Now, due to the evolution of society and to aging, there are considerably fewer teaching sisters; however, they still carry Marguerite’s charism, only differently.

Congrégation de Notre-Dame Associate

Who We Are

Women and men committed to their baptismal call to live Jesus’s mission of service, love, justice and compassion in today’s world.

In the World

Today, in 9 countries on 4 continents, the spirit of Marguerite Bourgeoys and the mission of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame inspire sisters and associates of the Congregation.

Our Mission

As partners, sisters and associates, faithful to their personal vocation, commit themselves to proclaim by their entire life, the Good News of a God of Love

With Daring, we open, with others, roads to liberation

With Urgency, we recognize the unjust structures that create the tragedy of exclusion

With Passion, we desire fullness of life with dignity, for all of humanity

Mutuality and Spirituality

In this relationship, the associates and sisters of the Congregation commit themselves:

  • to share with one another the spiritual legacy of Marguerite Bourgeoys
  • to participate together in prayer, celebration and spiritual enrichment
  • to collaborate in the mission of the Congregation of Notre Dame.

The spiritual legacy of Marguerite Bourgeoys Confidante

Confidante | Educator| Leader | Social Worker | Marriage Counselor

Marguerite Bourgeoys found inspiration for her mission of education in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles: Mary’s encounter with her cousin Elizabeth (the Visitation) and Mary’s experience in the midst of the disciples at Pentecost and in the first Christian community.

Some expressions of the spirituality of Visitation and of Pentecost are:

  • personal identity grounded in one’s relationship with God
  • mutuality, genuine human encounter
  • attentiveness to the action of the Spirit in oneself, others and the community gathered

Becoming an Associate

Orientation to Associate Relationship accompanied by a sister or associate for at least one year

Uncovering together the life and spirituality of Marguerite Bourgeoys

Living Christian discipleship is to be inspired by spirituality of Visitation and of Pentecost, in keeping with one’s personal vocation


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