350 Years of History

Introduction: A Missionary Church

The 17th century saw the development of what is known as the French School of Spirituality, part of the movement of renewal associated with the Catholic Reformation. This spirituality has at its heart, the person of Jesus Christ whose life and mission continues in Christians through the presence of the Holy Spirit. The great feast of this spirituality is Pentecost, the day in which the Church came into being through the action of the Spirit of the Risen Christ. The sense of the missionary dimension of the Christian calling is apparent in the stated motivation of the Société de Notre-Dame de Montréal and in the writings of Marguerite Bourgeoys. The French Church of this period saw education as playing a huge role in this missionary activity from the education and formation of priests to the education by both word and example of the least members of society. The desire to work among the more disadvantaged in society led to a great desire among religious women to establish communities that would not be cloistered but would live close to and share the life of those they hoped to serve. Among the most important figures of the French School was Jean-Jacques Olier, founding member of the Société de Notre-Dame de Montréal and also of an association of priests known now as the Priests of Saint Sulpice. This group eventually assumed responsibility for Montreal and their support for the work of Marguerite Bourgeoys would become an important factor in its growth and survival.