Visitation Province

This sculpture of Marguerite Bourgeoys with children by Jules Lasalle was commissioned  by the City of Montreal and is found at Place Marguerite Bourgeoys in that city.

Visitation Province was established in 2001 as the community of English-speaking Canadian Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame from the amalgamation of two existing English-speaking provinces . There are 259 Sisters who live in eight provinces and one territory throughout Canada. The Sisters are well known in this country for their contribution to a liberating education, especially for girls and young women, but also for many other good works.  In a spirit of mutuality, 386 Lay Associates are in partnership with the Sisters and share the charism of Marguerite Bourgeoys and the mission of the Congregation of Notre Dame.

The central office of Visitation Province is located near Halifax, Nova Scotia, and can be reached at visitationprovince@cnd-m.org.

Visitation

This name is a reference to the biblical account of the encounter of Mary, the mother of Jesus with her cousin Elizabeth. In this meeting, both women, unexpectedly pregnant, expressed their commitment to the will of the Holy One with their praise of God and solidarity with each other. Mary’s words in the Magnificat (“the longest passage put on the lips of any female speaker in the New Testament”) proclaimed the greatness of her God with unabashed social, economic and political implications: “God has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly, the hungry God has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.” (Luke 1: 52-53.)

Women, affectionate friends of different ages, exuding blessing, trusting in God, expressing hope for the dispossessed over demeaning injustice -- the images are pregnant with meaning for us and for our JPIC ministry, today.

The Congregation of Notre Dame

The foundress of the Congregation of Notre Dame, Marguerite Bourgeoys, came to Montreal in 1653 to found its first school and one of the first uncloistered religious communities of women. Marguerite’s ministry was to be a teacher of children, both French and Native. Many of the young women who arrived in New France were ill-prepared to face the harsh conditions of the New World. Marguerite opened Montreal’s first school in April 1658, teaching moral instruction, but also instructing young women how to adapt and survive in their new land .

Marguerite once said, “All that I have ever desired most deeply and what I still most ardently wish is that the great precept of the love of God above all things and of the neighbour as oneself be written in every heart.”

Her vision, controversial at the time, was to establish a religious community of women who would live outside the cloister. Marguerite chose this option to allow for greater proximity to the people she loved and served. Canonized in 1982, Marguerite became Canada’s first woman saint.

Today, the Congregation of Notre Dame is a vibrant, international religious community of Sisters and Associates, active in North America, Asia, Africa, and Central America. Drawing on its longstanding dedication to education, the Congregation is pursuing in various ways its mission towards the transformation of society for a more just and humane world.

The ministry and witness of the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation of the Congregation of Notre Dame’s Visitation Province are inspired by the aspirations, principles and motivations we have seen expressed in the Biblical story of the Visitation, in Catholic Social Thought, as well as in the example of the life of Marguerite Bourgeoys.

 

 

 

 

Two volumes written by Sister Patricia Simpson, CND, describe the early history of the Congregation. See: “Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal, 1640-1665”; and “Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Congregation of Notre Dame, 1665-1700”, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997 and 2005.

Elizabeth Johnson, “Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints,” Continuum,  New York, 2003, pg. 263.

“The Writings of Marguerite Bourgeoys: Autobiography and Spiritual Testament,” Montreal, 1976, pg. 187.