Order of Friars Minor Franciscans of Canada

Jeanne Mance: The founder of the Hôtel-Dieu of Montreal

Jeanne Mance: The founder of the Hôtel-Dieu of Montreal

Jeanne-Mance by Marie-Claire Daveluy o.f.s.

Franciscan roots of the foundation of the Hotel-Dieu of Montreal

An unexpected death made headlines in the last days of the year 1640. On the night of 22-23 December, Claude de Bullion, Lord of Bonnelles, marquis of Gallardon, General Superintendent of the Finances of France (…), died suddenly in Paris of an attack of apoplexy.


Jeanne Mance, hearing people talk about the misfortune of the Bullion Family, perhaps had a presentiment of the role these wealthy Bullion would soon play in her life. The time had come when, thanks to circumstances and to the care of her relatives and friends, she would live in an atmosphere where devotion and wealth flourished with equal brilliance.


Let us recall the facts. « A Provincial Superior of the Recollects », « a man of great merit, Fr. [Charles Rapine] », whom Jeanne Mance knew, came to the friary of his order in Paris at the beginning of the winter of 1641. Great was Jeanne’s joy at the thought of being able to expose before this superior mind her somewhat exceptional situation…


Father Rapine received with joy this lady from Langres whom he remembered well. He was touched by her story.  Could anyone ever speak in the presence of a son of St. Francis about the missions of New France without provoking his interest? The Recollect Order had already invested much in the apostolate in Canada. The Order always wanted to return to missionary work in these regions, where it already counted martyrs among its ranks.


Really Jeanne Mance could not entrust her projects to a soul better prepared to hear her and more willing to help her. For Father Rapine, listening to her, did not lose sight of the dangerous side of the project, his practical judgement forming and ordering a few saving elements.


Also, once she had withdrawn into a somewhat confused silence, Jeanne Mance saw the religious stand up and come to life. He spoke to her in rather short terms but how accurate and laden with helping meaning. We know of some of the recommendations of Father Rapine. Posterity, by means of the most palatable historian of Montreal, faithfully handed them down to us. In approving Jeanne Mance’s plan, and especially encouraging her to surrender entirely into the hands of Providence, the wise Recollect stated, «that all this was fine, that it was necessary that she forgot herself, but it was good that others assumed the necessary care.»


Her heart alleviated, Jeanne Mance took leave of Father Rapine. Thanks to this religious, voluntarily devoid of everything, she sensed she would live the Evangelical promise: “Leave everything, you will find everything.” How and where all this would come about? She did not care. Her hope and faith was worth all certainties. 

Her surprise was therefore less intense than her gratitude to God, when she received a few days later, a word from father Rapine. The religious asked her to be ready for the afternoon of the next day. She was to go to the Bullion residence, on Plâtrière Street. He would be there and would present her a grand lady, very rich, discreet but most generous patron of most French works of charity: Madame Angélique Bullion, widow of the Superintendent of the Finances of France.        (to be continued)

Georges Morin, ofm