Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin

Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin was a teacher and founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Anne, which focused on educating poor country children, both girls and boys in the same schools, challenging traditional gender norms and promoting education for all.

Source: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Early years

Marie-Anne Blondin was born Esther Blondin in Terrebonne (Quebec, Canada) on 18 April 1809, to a family of deeply religious but poor and illiterate farmers. At the age of 22, she started working as a domestic in the Convent of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. A year later, she registered as a boarder in order to learn to read and write. She then became a novice in the Congregation but ill health forced her to leave.

In 1833, after recovering from her ill health, Esther became a teacher in the parochial school of Vaudreuil. She found out that one of the causes of widespread illiteracy was a Church ruling that girls should not be taught by men, nor boys by women. As a result of this ruling, many parish priests, not able to finance two separate schools, had no schools at all.


The Founding of a Religious Congregation

In 1848, feeling a strong calling from the Holy Spirit, Esther presented a revolutionary idea to her Bishop, Ignace Bourget, to found a religious congregation “for the education of poor country children, both girls and boys in the same schools”. Bishop Bourget authorised this move, recognising that the State was in favour of such schools and the Church should not be left behind.

The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Anne was founded in Vaudreuil on 8 September 1850 and Esther, now named “Mother Marie-Anne”, became its first superior. The order flourished as the number of Sisters grew.


Facing Insurmountable Challenges

In 1853, the Congregation’s motherhouse was moved to Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan in the Lanaudière region of Quebec. The community’s chaplain, Father Louis-Adolphe Maréchal, became very controlling over the community. In August 1854, after a year of conflict between Father Maréchal and Mother Marie-Anne, Bishop Bourget, who wanted to protect the rights of the community, asked her to resign and not present herself for re-election as superior. Mother Marie-Anne obeyed, for she considered that the will of God was manifested through the episcopal authority.    

Resignation and New Role

After her resignation Mother Marie-Anne was moved to the convent at Sainte-Geneviève, where she served asdirector of the school. Father Maréchal and the new leaders of the Congregation continued to persecute her and in October 1858 she was accused of mismanagement and recalled to the Motherhouse, where the Bishop warned the authorities to ensure that she would not be a nuisance to anyone.

She was named director of a new convent in Sainte Geneviève, but there Mother Marie-Anne became the target of harassment by the Congregation’s new authorities. In 1858, she was once again removed from office. She was brought back to the motherhouse, where she did humble work right up to the time of her death. One superior even went so far as to seize her personal correspondence with Bishop Bourget. Through it all, she kept silence. Assigned to work in the laundry, her sole consolation was to inspire the novices with her exemplary patience, humility, and charity.



Mother Marie-Anne showed strength of character in her exemplary docility towards her bishop, and in her unreserved forgiveness of Abbé Maréchal and of those of her daughters who seemed forgetful of the past. Others would later honour an unappreciated founder, but her reputation would be restored only slowly. Until she died at the age of 80 on 2 Jan. 1890, Mother Marie-Anne was a serene and silent observer of the progress of her work. In the year of her death several hundred of her daughters were active in 42 institutions throughout North America.

As she felt the end approaching, Mother Marie-Anne left to her daughters her spiritual testament in these words which are a résumé of her whole life: “May the Holy Eucharist and perfect abandonment to God’s Will be your heaven on earth”. She then peacefully passed away at the Motherhouse of Lachine, on 2 January 1890, “happy to go to the Good God” she had served all her life.


What educators can learn from her

Mother Marie-Anne fought for what she believed in, education for children. She also showed us how to accept the Lord’s providential arrangement of our lives, and continued to witness to the Lord despite being in unjust and humbling situations in her life.