Church celebrates feast of recently beatified Canadian, pioneer of co-ed schools

Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin
Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin

.- April 18 commemorates the feast of Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin, a Canadian woman whose life was a story of obedience in the face of personal setbacks.

Esther Blondin was born in 1809 to a pious, French-Canadian farm family in southern Quebec. When she was old enough, she began to work as a domestic servant for a merchant and later for the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. While she worked for the sisters, she learned to read and write.

During that time, Esther decided to enter the congregation as a novice. However, her health forced her to abandon the pursuit. Nevertheless, the literacy she had obtained opened doors for her and she became a teacher, and eventually a director at a parochial school.

She was aware of the high levels of illiteracy in the area, and when she was 39 years old, she sought to found an order that taught both boys and girls in the same school. The year was 1848 and her idea was radical, as schools taught boys and girls separately.

Eventually, the pioneering woman received the requisite permission, and the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Anne was founded. Esther was the superior and took the name Marie-Anne. Though she was the founder and superior, Sister Marie-Anne faced much oppression from the congregation’s chaplain. He eventually had her removed from her position, and she was prohibited from holding any administrative roles for the rest of her life.

She spent her last 32 years without complaining, working in the order’s laundry and ironing room. Despite her demotion, her order continued to grow and spread across Canada and the United States.

Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin died in 1890. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

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