Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Friday, May 8, 2015

Catherine of St. Augustine in the Colony of New France

Catherine de Simon de Longpré (died 8 May 1668)

Born in 1632, Catherine de Simon de Longpré joined the religious order of the canonesses of St. Augustine of the Mercy of Jesus in Bayeux in 1644. Rather than living their lives as cloistered nuns, the canonesses of St. Augustine were "hospital sisters," devoting their lives not only to prayer and devotion but to caring for the poor and the sick.

From Ragueneau's 1671 
La vie de la mere Catherine de Saint Augustin
In 1648, just sixteen years old and now known as Catherine of St. Augustine, she volunteered to join a small group of members of the order already in Quebec. The canonesses had established the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec, modeled on the order's Hôtel-Dieu in Bayeux. There Catherine attended not only to the European colonists but also to the indigenous peoples.

Catherine of St. Augustine died when she was just thirty-six years old, weakened not only by the harsh conditions of life in New France but, like so many women religious, by her rigorous spiritual practices. 

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1989. In his sermon on the occasion of her beatification, he noted that “Among the founders of the Church of Canada in its spiritual springtime can be numbered Marie Catherine, this Augustinian whose hand, as well as her heart, was nothing other than charity.” Her feast day is 8 May, on the anniversary of her birth.

For the biography of Catherine of Augustine, written by her confessor, the Jesuit priest Paul Ragueneau, and published in France in 1671, click here. You may also be interested an assessment of Ragueneau's biographical treatment of Catherine of St. Augustine; access Éric Thierry's article in the Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America here.

Marie-Emmanuel Chabot’s essay, drawing on contemporary accounts of the life and work of Catherine of St. Augustine, is available here.

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