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Educating in charity: Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher

Aline Haddad

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Statue of Mother Marie-Rose as a nun in black habit, in an eggshell-coloured altarpiece with pointed arches
Chapel of Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher, Co-Cathedral of St. Anthony of Padua in Longueuil, QC. © Salt + Light Media 2024
During a recent visit to the Co-Cathedral of St. Anthony of Padua in Longueuil, my steps led me to a small, discreet chapel in the right transept, bathed in subdued light and imbued with an aura of serenity. It was here that I met a remarkable spiritual figure, whose life and legacy continue to shine through the ages: Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher.
As I lingered before the altar dedicated to this saintly woman, I found myself plunged into the depths of her captivating story. That story began in rural New France in the 19th century, in a humble home where Marie-Rose took her first steps. But her destiny would take an extraordinary turn, through the twists and turns of her spiritual journey.
After I visited the chapel, with its little museum and series of pamphlets describing her life, I began to research her more. As I contemplated her, I was deeply moved by the strength of her faith, the nobility of her ideals, and the compassion that animated her every gesture. Here was a leader who dedicated her life to the education of young people and the emancipation of women, at a time when such aspirations were often stifled by social convention. I felt a compelling need to discover more about this inspiring figure, whose benevolent presence still seemed palpable in this humble chapel. 

Mother Marie-Rose Durocher and the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary

Eulalie Durocher was born on October 6, 1811 in Saint-Antoine-Sur-Richelieu. The tenth child in a family of eleven, her parents instilled in her a sense of values from an early age: earnest faith in God, regular prayer in Church, and fairness and openness to others.
She became the governess at the Beloeil presbytery when she was 19, at the invitation of her brother Théophile, the parish priest Beloeil. There she gathered the young girls of the parish into the congregation of the Children of Mary to educate them, awaken them to their responsibilities, and contribute to the happiness of their families. 
She was attracted by the religious life, and grew concerned about the lack of Christian education for young people at the time. She responded to the call of Bishop Ignace Bourget and founded, with the help of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. It would become the first teaching congregation of Canadian origin. With her two companions, Henriette Céré and Mélodie Dufresne, she opened the first house of the congregation in Longueuil in 1843.
Then in 1844, with her companions, she formally made her first religious profession and took the name Marie-Rose. Mother Marie-Rose lived with her community for only six years, and died in Longueuil on October 6, 1849.
Declared Venerable on July 13, 1979, Marie-Rose Durocher was proclaimed Blessed by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982. Her liturgical feast day is October 6.The chapel in Longueuil houses her body in a pink marble tomb. While that chapel I went to serves as her major shrine, I was surprised to find her presence in so many different religious buildings.  On a visit to Notre-Dame de Montréal, I admired her statue carved in wood at the entrance to the basilica and took this photo:
Brown wooden statue of Mother Marie-Rose in a pointed arch niche
The enduring influence of the congregation founded by Marie-Rose Durocher is palpable in the modern world. Through their actions and community involvement, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary continue the legacy of their foundress by striving to meet the educational, spiritual, and social needs of our time. Their continuing presence in schools, parishes, and charitable initiatives testifies to the timeless relevance of the values and mission initiated by Marie-Rose Durocher, inspiring present and future generations to continue her work in the service of humanity. The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary continue their mission in Canada, the United States, Lesotho (South Africa), Brazil, Peru, and Haiti.

Prayer to Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher:

O Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher,
You who dedicated your life to the education of young people and to alleviating the suffering of those most in need,
You who were guided by compassion and generosity towards your brothers and sisters in need,
We pray to you today for your intercession with God.
May your example of faith, dedication and love for others inspire our hearts to follow in your footsteps,
May we, like you, be instruments of peace, hope and comfort in an often troubled world,
Help us to see the face of Jesus in every person we meet, to serve with humility and love without reserve.
O Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher, we entrust our intentions and our prayers to you,
Intercede for us with God, that we may live according to His will and spread His light in the world.

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