St Marie de l’Incarnation (+1672) “Teresa of New France” mother, mystic, Ursuline nun, missionary to Canada, educator , and Mother of the Canadian Church.
Maria was the daughter of a baker who from an early age had a profound interest in prayer and experienced mystical encounters with Jesus and his saints. At seventeen she entered into an arranged marriage with Claude Martin with whom she had one son before her husband died, after only two years of marriage.
Returning to her family, she refused considering remarriage, and instead became the manager of her brother in-laws shipping company where she showed great aptitude for administration.
10 years after husband’s death, Marie turned care of her son, also named Claude, over to her sister and entered an Ursuline convent taking the name Marie de l’Incarnation. Claude struggled deeply with this decision, and with several of his 12-year-old companions, he stormed the gates of the convent, but to no avail. Later in life, primarily through correspondence, they reconciled and Claude ended up becoming a Benedictine monastic, himself, who wrote Marie’s biography.
Marie experienced further visions with the Ursulines and one in particular after discernment with her spiritual director and superiors she interpreted as a call to go to “New France”, Canada, to assist with the Jesuit missions there. On April 3, 1639 she departed to arrive in future Quebec on August 1.
She worked as a missionary providing a much needed feminine genius to the Jesuit presence and educated as equals the local Native and colonial populations of girls. She became proficient enough in Algonquin, Iroquois, Montagnais, and Ouendat that she eventually wrote dictionaries and catechisms in all four languages and translated hymns so that both the French and Native girls took turns singing in their native tongue.
She founded schools and a convent and adapted the Ursuline Rule and Constitution for life in the New World. She left prolific correspondence which speaks not only to profound spirituality but also describes aspects of life in the French colonies. She died at age 72 in Quebec City. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980 and in 2014 was canonized by Pope Francis.