MOREAU DE BRÉSOLES, JUDITH, nun, Hospitaller of St. Joseph, co-foundress of the Hôtel-Dieu, Laval (France), foundress and first superior of the Hospitallers of the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal; baptized 25 March 1620 at Blois, daughter of François Moreau de Brésoles, commissary for the wars, and of Françoise Gailliard; d. 1 July 1687 at Montreal.
Judith Moreau de Brésoles’ family held a place of importance in the city of Blois. From the time she was about six, Judith used to accompany her mother on her charitable visits. At around age 15 she learned to do blood-letting and to compound remedies. She soon became an assiduous visitor to the sick in the hospital in Blois, and wanted to become a nursing nun. Her parents were resolutely opposed to this. Nevertheless they finally allowed her to enter the convent of the Visitation in her native city, but this trial was unsuccessful. Nothing but hospital service attracted the girl, and her spiritual directors permitted her to follow her vocation despite her family’s opposition. On 5 Nov. 1645, accompanied by an old servant, she fled the paternal château to go to present herself to Mother Marie de La Ferre, the foundress of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, at La Flèche. Her nursing talents were soon put to use. She determined “to learn from a skilful chemist the secret of extracting spirits, essences, and other most difficult pharmaceutical products.” She was consequently able to render valuable services to the Hôtel-Dieu at La Flèche as well as to that at Laval. With Mother Catherine Macé and Mother Marie Maillet she shared the honour of being a foundress of the hospital at Laval. She was its novice mistress.
Mother Brésoles, “who was in truth a Judith in courage and fidelity,” was likewise to distinguish herself by her great virtues. She had the honour of being chosen by the founder of Montreal, Jérôme Le Royer de La Dauversière, and the bishop of Angers, Henri Arnauld, to be the foundress of the convent of the Hospitallers of Montreal.
Arriving in Canada on 7 Sept. 1659 with Jeanne Mance, Mother Macé, and Mother Maillet, she organized her little community, keeping for herself the difficult and menial tasks. Her medical and pharmaceutical talents made of her a most competent Hospitaller. “Consequently,” wrote Sister Morin*, “it was said that her medicines were miraculous.” She served the sick, “French as well as Indian,” for 20 years. Her reputation as a good nurse became so firmly established that her patients believed naively that it would be impossible for them to die if it was she who took care of them.
The first superior of the Hospitallers of the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal died on 1 July 1687. All the population of Canada, says the chronicle, mourned the loss of this great Sister of Mercy and true servant of the poor.
AHDM, Acte de baptême de Mère de Brésoles; Registre des entrées et professions, Rôle d’embarquement sur le Saint-André; Contrat de fondation des Filles Hospitalières de Saint-Joseph de Montréal (9 juin 1659); “Obédience” de Monseigneur de Laval confiant le mandat aux trois premières Mères (20 oct. 1659); Acte de prise de possession de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Ville-Marie (20 nov. 1659); Acceptation d’administration du bien des pauvres de l’Hôpital de Montréal par les Dames religieuses du dit Hôpital (10 oct. 1676); Marie Morin, “Histoire simple et véritable de l’établissement des Religieuses Hospitalières de Saint-Joseph en l’Île de Montréal, dite à présent Ville-Marie, en Canada, de l’année 1659 . . .”; and other documents. Morin, Annales (Fauteux, et al.). Lefebvre, Marie Morin. Mondoux, L’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal.
Revisions based on:
Arch. Municipales, Blois, France, “Reg. paroissiaux et d’état civil,” Saint-Solenne, 25 mars 1620: archives.blois.fr/article.php?larub=56 (consulted 2 May 2018).