FORESTIER, MARIE, dite de Saint-Bonaventure-de-Jésus, one of the three original Religious Hospitallers of Quebec, second superior of the Hôtel-Dieu; b. c. 1615 at Dieppe; d. 1698 at Quebec.
We know nothing of her childhood or of her parents. Her family must have been well off, since it made considerable gifts to the nun. She entered the mother house of the Hospitallers at Dieppe when she was only eight, and made her religious profession in 1632. She volunteered for the Canadian mission and arrived at Quebec 1 Aug. 1639 with Anne Le Cointre, dite de Saint-Bernard, and Marie Guenet, dite de Saint-Ignace, to establish a hospital.
For more than 50 years Marie Forestier was the soul and the support of the house that had been founded and built through her efforts. She was appointed superior 9 May 1645 and was re-elected six times at varying intervals up till 1683. In the intervals the principal positions of responsibility in the community were all entrusted to her.
In 1655 she was involved in a controversy with Jeanne Mance. The Hospitallers of Quebec wanted to extend their work to Montreal, but Mademoiselle Mance and Chomedey de Maisonneuve were opposed to this. Here is what Father Paul Le Jeune conveyed to Mother de Saint-Bonaventure in 1656: “I have spoken to monsieur de Maisonneuve. There is nothing to do for you at Montreal.” Nevertheless the Abbé Queylus [see Thubières] succeeded in the autumn of 1658 in bringing two Hospitallers to Montreal, but in the face of Jeanne Mance’s opposition they had to return to Quebec.
On 21 Jan. 1664 Marie Forestier obtained from Bishop Laval* “the separation and distinction between the funds for the poor and those of the community, so that, being guided in the future by what one would have to spend for the Nuns and for the hospital, one might limit” expenses.
Marie Forestier played a major role in the writing of the Annales of the Hôtel-Dieu. Mother Jeanne-Françoise Juchereau*, dite de Saint-Ignace, tells us that she kept “lovingly the little notebooks in which Mother Marie de Saint Bonaventure de Jésus wrote down what took place in her time. Her style is simple and naïve. I have tried to imitate it by continuing as she had begun. . . . Some years before she fell into her second childhood, we urged her to write down what she had often told us about the beginnings of this house. She gave in to our requests, and it is partly from what she left us that I have drawn what I shall say about that here.” According to the Annales again, Marie Forestier saw in a vision the “entry into heaven” of Mother Catherine de Saint-Augustin [see Simon]. She also received in a dream a warning of the imminent death of Jean Le Sueur, the nuns’ former chaplain.
Marie Forestier died on 25 May 1698. During her last years “her great age had impaired her mind . . . , but the saintly habit of the virtue of obedience which she had acquired made her so submissive that when she asked for something that it was felt should not be granted her, she who took care of her had only to tell her that our Mother was not willing; that was sufficient for her not to show any more desire for what she wanted previously and for her to remain quiet.” To express their admiration for the nun, the Indians “had always called her the lovely, the good, and the kindly one.”
AHDQ, T. 21, C. 500, Notices biographiques des premières Mères. Recensement de 1681. “Acte de loi réception et approbation pour L’establissement de L’hôpital de Québec par Monsieur le Gouverneur,” PAC Rapport, 1939, 41–42. JR (Thwaites). Juchereau, Annales (Jamet). Jug. et délib., I. H.-R. Casgrain, Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec (Québec, 1878). P.-G. Roy, A travers l’histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec (Lévis, 1939).