It’s not often you get to witness the life of a woman who died more than 200 years ago.
More than 60 people got that chance during the production “Meet Marguerite d’Youville” at Youville Home on Saturday afternoon.
“I was in awe. She was a person who saw God, never lost patience and was never discouraged,” said Sister Marie Rose Hurtubise, who joined the Grey Nuns 60 years ago at the age of 18.
The play was commissioned by Youville Home to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first hospital in the province opened by the Grey Nuns in St. Albert.
The Grey Nuns (Sisters of Charity) was founded by Marie-Marguerite d’Youville in Montreal in 1737. Upon accepting the invitation of Fr. Albert Lacombe, the order expanded west to the St. Albert mission in 1863. In November of that year, the nuns took in their first patient.
Marguerite d’Youville was canonized in 1990, the first Canadian-born saint, and recognized as the “Mother of Universal Charity” for her lifetime of service to the sick and the poor.
“She didn’t set out to be a nun at all … she was an activist,” explained Maureen Rooney, of Rooney and Punyi Productions, creators of “Meet Marguerite d’Youville.”
The husband and wife team specialize in educational theatre, specifically “Interview History” where the stories of prominent Canadian historical figures, including Fr. Albert Lacombe, are presented to students in an interview format.
“Meet Marguerite d’Youville” is the culmination of years worth of research, said Rooney.
Prior to consecrating herself to God, Marguerite d’Youville had experienced desperate poverty and suffered the loss of her father, husband and four of her six children.
She dug her way out of her husband’s gambling debts after his death then turned around and started helping out others, she explained.
She was able to deal with corrupt officials, [after]being accused of fraud she had to fight in a mans world and she fought them all and won! said Rooney.
“She left us with this phenomenal legacy all centred around her incredibly deep love for God. She saw God in the poor and the sick. She was this incredible entrepreneur with a big heart.”
Many people, including many St. Albertans, probably do not know the legacy of Marguerite d’Youville, added Hurtubise.
“I’m sure many do not know her life. The way she accepted trials and tribulations, the way she succeeded.”
Marieta Paul, manager of spiritual care at Youville Home, hopes the play will provide inspiration.
“The Grey Nuns started it all right here on Mission Hill,” she said.
“The sisters have given us this legacy of caring for people. We are hoping to keep that vision and the work of St. Marguerite d’Youville present as we have been entrusted with the work now.”
“The woman who inspired these women who became Grey Nuns will hopefully inspire us too.”
Rooney hopes the audience will get an inside look at who Marguerite d’Youville was, behind the black cape and bonnet.
“This is somebody whose faith not only pulled them through … but to a point spiritually where she felt honoured these things had happened (to her) because it led to joy. The miracle was her discovering joy … turning sorrow into joy through faith and action,” said Rooney.
“In the end, the audience will feel like they have really met this woman and understand why so many places are named after the Grey Nuns and what they were about.”
A public performance of “Meet Marguerite d’Youville” is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. at the St. Albert Community Hall (17 Perron Street). Attendance is free, but donations are welcome to cover the cost of production.
Rooney and Punyi Productions plan on touring the play in local schools and churches over the next year.