Born in Varennes, Canada on October 15, 1701, Marie Marguerite Dufrost de Lajemmerais had to interrupt her schooling at the age of twelve to help her widowed mother. Eight years later, she married Francois d'Youville; they had six children, four of whom died young. Despite the fact that her husband gambled, sold liquor illegally to Native Americans, and treated her indifferently, she cared for him compassionately before his death in 1730.
Even though she was caring for two small children and running a store to help pay off her husband's debts, Marguerite still helped the poor by devoting much of her time to the Confraternity of the Holy Family and other charitable activities. Once her children were grown, she and several companions rescued a Quebec hospital that was in danger of failing. She called her community the Institute of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal; the people called them the "Grey Nuns" because of the color of their habit. In time, a proverb arose among the poor people of Montreal, "Go to the Grey Nuns; they never refuse to serve." In time, five other religious communities traced their roots to the Grey Nuns.
She persevered in caring for the poor despite many obstacles. She was in weakened health and mourning the death of one of her companions when a fire destroyed their home. This only served to deepen her commitment to the poor. On February 2, 1745, she and her two early companions pledged themselves to put everything in common in order to help a greater number of persons in need. Two years later, this "mother of the poor" as she was called, was asked to become director of the Charon Brothers Hospital in Montreal which was falling into ruin. It then became known as the Hotel Dieu (House of God) and set a standard for medical care and Christian compassion. When the hospital was destroyed by fire in 1765, she knelt in the ashes, led the Te Deum (a hymn to God's providence in all circumstances) and began the rebuilding process. She fought the attempts of government officials to restrain her charity and established the first foundling home in North America.
Pope Saint John XXIll, who beatified her in 1959, called her the "Mother of Universal Charity." She was canonized in 1990 by Pope John Paul II. Her feast day is April 11.
-taken from: www.catholic.org & www.franciscanmedia.org