By Espy Coiling
CATHOLIC girls and women all over the world are showing great interest in Quebec's double tricentennial which takes place in August this year. The three-hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the famous Hotel Dieu, Quebec's oldest hospital, and of the Monastere des Ursulines, oldest school for girls in the Western Hemisphere, will be celebrated from August 1 until late in the year.
Just three hundred years ago the nuns who founded the hospital and school arrived in the little, palisaded village which was pioneer Quebec in 1639.
They were the world's first women missionaries to the heathen and had come out to work among the Indians of Canada at the request of Pere Paul Le Jeune, head of the Jesuit missions in Quebec.
The hospital known as the Hotel Dieu was built by the Duchess Marie d'Aiguillon, niece of Cardinal Richelieu; and has been since its inception in the hands of the Hospitalieres de la Misericorde de Jesus de l'Ordre de St. Augustin. The first nurses, those who came in 1639, were three in number and were very young women in their twenties. They arrived just in time to begin fighting a smallpox epidemic which lasted for more than ten years. The Hotel Dieu Quebec is the oldest hospital north of Mexico, and antedates any similar enterprise in the United States, The Monastere des Ursulines, known all through the Americas as an institution where a girl may learn anything from plain sewing to being a harpsichord virtuoso, was founded on the very same day as the Hotel Dieu.
The Ursulines, in fact, arrived on the same fishing-boat as that which brought the Hospitalieres. With them was their patroness, Madame Madeleine de in Peltrie, who spent her whole fortune to build them a school and church. Like the hospital nuns, the foundresses of the convent were three in number.
The Superior of the Ursulines was the great Mere Marie of the Incarnation, who set up the first Indian school in Canada in the lower two rooms of a Quebec log-house which had bunks around the walls where both nuns and red girls slept. The Monastere des Ursulines was not completed until 1642.
They Keep On Growing The Hospitalieres did not have to erect their own building, as the Duchess
had a hospital in readiness for them upon their arrival.
A community of interests and the fact that the two orders had shared the hardships and hunger of a voyage in a slow, leaky sailing vessel made the Ursulines and Augustines firm friends from the beginning; and through generations of spiritual work this friendship has continued. The two orders have seen each other outgrow one establishment after another until to-day both occupy buildings which cover entire blocks in the French Canadian city.
One part of the great friendship between the Ursulines and Augustines of Quebec has been sheltering each other after disastrous fires. The Ursuline convent, in spite of the fact that some of its original walls are still in use, was twice rendered untenable by fire before the end of the seventeenth century.
In Times of Dearth
After both conflagrations, the Ursulines betook themselves to the Hotel Dieu to live with their friends. the Augustines, until funds could be raised for rebuilding. During both visits they lived under Augustinian rule and helped In all the business of nursing the sick.
In 1755 the nursing nuns in their turn were burned out and lived for a time at the school; but after over a century of progress there were too many Hospitalieres to be accommodated in the convent, so they set themselves up in the Jesuit College, where they had their hospital during the Seven Years' War.
The hospital was finally rebuilt late in the same century by another Duchess d'Aiguillon, who was a direct descendant of the first patroness, for whose intention Mass iS still said daily in the little hospital church.