St. Marie of the Incarnation Guyart
Daughter of a baker, she was raised in a family of craftsmen and tradesmen, and was related on her mother‘s side to the noble Barbon de la Bourdaisière family. A pious and sometimes mystical child, she would memorize and recite homilies, and early wanted to become a nun. Against her wishes, she entered an arranged marriage with Claude Martin, a silk manufacturer, at age seventeen, and was soon the mother of one son. Widowed after two years of marriage, she moved back with her family, and refused to discuss re-marriage. Worked as an embroiderer.
On 25 March 1620 she experienced a vision in which she was shown all her faults and human frailties, then was immersed in Christ’s blood. This event changed her completely, and her desire to be involved in religious life translated to prayer, liturgical devotion, and charity.
Finally leaving her father‘s house, Marie worked as a bookkeeper in her brother-in-law’s shipping company. Having a gift for administration, Marie was soon the company manager. However, the drive to the religious life never ended, and in January 1631 she asked her sister to care for her son Claude, and then joined the Ursulines at Tours, France on 25 January 1631. Claude gathered a group of his friends, all 12 or 13 years old, and tried to storm the convent to “free” his mother, but they were unable to gain entry. This incident has been often cited by her detractors as indicative of a serious flaw in Marie, and even she did not wholly understand why she did what she did. She later explained, however, that she was following God‘s will, and Claude apparently came to understand it – he became a Benedictine priest in 1641, the assistant to his Order‘s superior general, and his mother‘s biographer.
Marie took her final vows in 1633 as Marie de l’Incarnation. Assistant mistress of novices for the Order in Tours. Doctrinal instructor. After a few years of this work, Marie received another vision that would change her life. This time it was a huge country of mountains and forests, and the message that it was Canada, and that she must go there to build a house for Christ. She worked for years to collect the money and support for her mission, and in 3 April 1639 she sailed from Dieppe with Marie-Madeleine de la Peltrie, one of her primary supporters.
She landed in New France on 4 July 1639, and arrived in the future Québec, Canada on 1 August 1639. She was the first superior of the Ursulines in Canada. Worked as a missionary to the Natives and other residents in the area. Studied the local languages with the Jesuits who were already in the area; she became so proficient that she later wrote Algonquin, Iroquois, Montagnais, and Ouendat dictionaries, and a catechism in Iroquois.
She laid the first stone of the convent in 1641, and took it over in 1642. It formed the base for her work, and when it burned on 29 December 1650, she supervised its reconstruction, finishing construction on 29 May 1651. Ever strong-willed, she opposed bishop Blessed Francis de Montmorency Laval‘s attempt to control the Quebec Ursulines. A prolific correspondent, over 12,000 of her letters have survived.