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Madeleine de La Peltrie

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A French noblewoman, and foundress, born at Caen, 1603; died at Quebec, 18 November, 1671. In spite of her monastic inclinations, she was forced to wed, at seventeen, Charles de la Peltrie, who died five years later. After ten years of widowhood spent in piety and almsdeeds, Lejeune's "Relation" awakened in her soul an ardent desire for the Canadian mission, which she strove to accomplish notwithstanding fresh opposition from her father. To overcome this, while seemingly complying with her parent's wish to see her remarried, it was arranged that the saintly de Bernière Louvigny would ask her hand, leaving her free to pursue her generous design. Her father's death intervening, the union was cancelled, though her friend espoused the realization of her plans, duly approved by de Condren and St. Vincent de Paul . She corresponded with the Venerable Marie de l'Incarnation, who recognized her as the soul providentially destined to second her zeal. They reached Quebec, 1 August, 1639, and began together a life of privations and merits inseparable from the rude condition of the colony and the savage nature of their wards. Madame de la Peltrie's charity exerted itself at Sillery, where she stood sponsor for many a dark neophyte. Her intimacy with Jeanne Mance, Maisonneuve and the other prospective founders of Ville Marie, during the first winter spent near Quebec (1641-42), prompted her to follow them to Montreal, where she was the first communicant at the first Mass celebrated by Father Vimont, S.J. (1642). Deterred from her apparently eccentric plan of visiting the Huron missions, she finally returned to Quebec after an absence of eighteen months, and devoted herself and her fortune wholly and irrevocably to the work of Marie de l'Incarnation. In spite of her entreaties she was never formally admitted to the novitiate, but led the humble and austere life of a true religious, scrupulously following every detail of the observances, and reaching a high degree of contemplative prayer. Governor Courcelles, Intendant Talon, the Indians, and the poor attended her funeral. Besides contributing to the foundation of the Ursuline monastery, she had inaugurated in Quebec, the admirable mission of charity for women of society.

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