Published May 19, 2005
The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart gave a special gift to the people of St. Marguerite d’Youville Church in Lawrenceville on April 16.
Sister Marlene Butler, president of the Grey Nuns, presented a statue of St. Marguerite to the parish during a 5:30 p.m. Vigil Mass at the church. St. Marguerite was the foundress of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart.
St. Marguerite d’Youville Church began in 1992 as a mission of St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn. Services were first held in a storefront at Sunset Square Plaza Mall on Lawrenceville Highway. In 1994, the Archdiocese of Atlanta granted parish status to the unnamed congregation and a search began for a patron saint for the new church.
Students at St. John Neumann Regional Catholic School, who were taught by Grey Nuns and educated about the charism of Marguerite d’Youville, wrote essays about the life and charitable works of the recently canonized saint and suggested that the new church be named for her. Their efforts on behalf of the “Mother of Universal Charity” were rewarded, and St. Marguerite d’Youville Church was dedicated in 1998.
“The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart and the people of this parish share a very strong spiritual bond,” Sister Marlene said. “St. Marguerite is the foundress of the Grey Nuns, a model of compassion for all. We strive to follow her example of love, selflessness and mercy. Like Marguerite, we accept the difficulties of following Christ and living His Word. As she did, we believe and trust in Divine Providence—in God’s provident care in our lives.”
The first native-born Canadian saint, Marguerite d’Youville was born in 1701 in Quebec. By the age of 29, she had endured the death of her father, childhood poverty, an unhappy marriage, widowhood and the deaths of four of her six children. Despite the suffering in her life, she maintained strong faith in God and began to help the poor and the neglected of Montreal. Other women joined her in her work and in 1737 they consecrated themselves to God, promising to serve the most needy of society.
In the early days of their ministry, the women were often jeered at and called “les Soeurs Grises,” meaning “the tipsy sisters” or “Grey sisters,” a reference to Marguerite’s husband’s illegal liquor trading with the Indians. Marguerite retained the taunted name “Grey Nuns” as a symbol of humility. Over the years, Marguerite fought for the rights of the poor and continually broke with the social conventions of the day in order to help those in need. She died in 1771 and was canonized in 1990.
Today, Marguerite’s mission continues through the diverse ministries of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart in Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire and Alaska. Sisters minister in education, health care, social work and pastoral counseling.
During the Mass, the statue was brought to the altar during the offertory procession and presented to the congregation by Sister Marlene.
“We can think of no more meaningful gift to the people of St. Marguerite d’Youville parish than this image of their patron saint, who is already very present in spirit,” she said.
Following the liturgy, parishioners, Grey Nuns and Grey Nun Associates gathered for a potluck supper and reception in the parish hall.