MIGEON DE BRANSSAT (Bransac), MARIE-ANNE, dite de la Nativité, Ursuline and superior; baptized 27 Jan. 1685 in Montreal (Que.), daughter of Jean-Baptiste Migeon* de Branssat and Catherine Gauchet de Belleville; d. 31 Aug. 1771 at Quebec.
Marie-Anne Migeon de Branssat joined the Ursulines in Quebec in 1702 with the required dowry of 3,000 livres as well as her board and furniture. She pronounced her vows two years later in the presence of the vicar general, Joseph de La Colombière*. In turn she was mistress of boarders, mistress of novices, assistant superior, and then for many years superior. Elected superior in 1735 and re-elected in 1738, she served again from 1744 to 1750 and from 1753 to 1760.
Her first election brought her authority in delicate and trying circumstances. The disputes which had been growing apace in the Canadian church since the death of Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*] had exposed the Ursulines to difficulties, and they had had occasion to complain to the Conseil Supérieur about the highhanded way the chapter was treating them. Bishop Dosquet himself had appointed the two preceding superiors, Anne Anceau, dite de Sainte-Thérèse, in 1732, and Marie-Louise Gaillard, dite de la Sainte-Vierge, in June 1735. The latter appointment does not appear to have been a successful one, since at the regular election four months later Marie-Anne de la Nativité was chosen.
She set to work immediately, and the records contain many illustrations of her intelligence and ability in all areas of responsibility. She completed work on the chapel, used for worship since 1723, by having the altar reredos which Noel Levasseur* had carved put in place in 1736. In 1739, at her suggestion, some of the infirmary’s silver pieces, which had belonged in large part to Mme de La Peltrie [Marie-Madeleine de Chauvigny*], were given to make a sanctuary lamp with the hallmark of Paul Lambert*, dit Saint-Paul. That year, in honour of the hundredth anniversary of the Ursulines’ arrival in Canada, she organized celebrations which, according to the annals, were of an unprecedented splendour.
Marie-Anne de la Nativité also energetically pursued the material interests of her community. She bought, sold, and leased property, built a storehouse and a small wing for boarders, and erected mills on the Sainte-Croix seigneury and the Portneuf barony. In 1739 she repaired the classroom used for day pupils in Mme de La Peltrie’s house and in 1755 the bell-tower which had been knocked down by a hurricane and earthquake. On 7 June of the latter year, after a fire at the Hôtel-Dieu, she took in 49 hospital nuns for three weeks, reciprocating the kindness that community had shown the Ursulines in 1650 [see Marie Guyart*, dite de l’Incarnation] and in 1686 [see Jeanne-Françoise Juchereau* de La Ferté, dite de Saint-Ignace].
Marie-Anne de la Nativité was superior throughout the Seven Years’ War. On 13 and 14 July 1759 the Ursulines, except for ten sisters, took refuge in the Hôpital-Général, as did the hospital nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu; the ten, along with the chaplain Pierre-Joseph Resche* and two other priests, remained to guard the convent. On 21 September, a few days after the capitulation, the Ursulines, reduced to the most abject poverty, returned to their cloister, which was unfit for use in winter. Brigadier-General Murray, wanting the nuns to care for some of his wounded soldiers, came to see their premises. He immediately furnished them with the necessities of life and, observing their inability to pay workers, decided to attend to the repairs to the convent personally. The work of restoration began with the chapel, the only building suitable for a parish church; in it Catholic and Protestant services of worship were held alternately. Only the most essential repairs were undertaken because by 4 October the wounded were being transferred to the convent; the sisters were thereafter provided for at the king’s expense. They took their new task as hospital nuns seriously and by autumn they were even knitting long woollen stockings for the Scottish soldiers, whose uniforms were hardly suitable for Canadian winters.
The final year of Marie-Anne de la Nativité’s last term as superior was 1759 and custom dictated that she be replaced, but Bishop Pontbriand [Dubreil*], learning that she was highly regarded by the British, authorized the Ursulines to elect her for a seventh year if they wished. She received a majority of more than two-thirds. No one had cause to regret the breach of the rules, because on numerous occasions in the period up to 15 Dec. 1760 she succeeded in reconciling the interests of the community with those of the British. For instance, she obtained a pardon for a young British soldier who, wanting to see the nuns in procession, had slipped into the chancel of the cloister’s chapel. When the British wounded left early in June 1760, it was again she who requested and succeeded in getting Murray’s continued financial support for the community.
After three years’ rest, Marie-Anne de la Nativité was elected in December 1763 to assist Esther Wheelwright, dite de l’Enfant-Jésus. In 1766, at the end of her term of office, she was released from all official responsibilities, but she continued to participate in the community’s religious exercises. After being confined to the infirmary for two years, she died on 31 Aug. 1771.
Perhaps none save the founders was more deserving of her community’s respect than Marie-Anne de la Nativité. In the words of the “Vieux Récit,” “Our Lord endowed her with great intelligence and spirituality; she was learned, she spoke easily and wrote with a courteous and skilful pen, and her beautiful voice faithfully rose in support of the choir; she gave of all her talents for the benefit of her beloved house.” Her life showed that this praise was well merited.
ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 27 janv. 1685. AUQ, Actes d’élection des supérieures; Actes des assemblées capitulaires, 1, pp.74, 215, 264f; Actes de professions et de sépultures, 1, p.61; Annales, 1, pp.190, 217, 220, 223, 273; Conclusions des assemblées des discrètes, 1, pp.78, 82; Livres de comptes, 1; Registre des entrées, vêtures, professions et décès des religieuses, 1. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Les actes de foi et hommage conservés à Montréal,” BRH, XXVI (1920), 93–96. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Burke, Les ursulines de Québec (1863–66), II, III. A.-H. Gosselin, L’Église du Canada jusqu’à la Conquête. [Joséphine Holmes, dite de Sainte-Croix], Glimpses of the monastery, scenes from the history of the Ursulines of Quebec during two hundred years, 1639–1839 . . . (2nd ed., Quebec, 1897). Régis Roy, “Migeon de Bransat,” BRH, XXVI (1920), 313–16.