The 1840s were not hospitable to unmarried women who were “in the family way.” Mother and child were typically treated as outcasts. Most unwed mothers or their families sought to avoid what was perceived as a disgrace by concealing the pregnancy, and many babies were dropped off under cover of night at orphanages. Others were abandoned or even killed.
Some single mothers, however, confessed to Bishop Bourget and pleaded
for his help. He turned to the widow Jetté, confident that she would
treat them with compassion and find a safe, welcoming place for them.
Rosalie, a midwife’s daughter and the mother of 11 children, was well
equipped for this delicate mission. From 1840-45, she assisted 25
women, after which the bishop asked Rosalie if she would establish a
religious community dedicated uniquely to this ministry.
“With no other resource but her faith,” Father Sylvestre said,
Rosalie responded with a “yes” filled with “hope, obedience and
abandonment to God’s will.”
In 1845, Rosalie convinced her son, Pierre, to let her use the
unfinished attic of the house he had just rented. With sparse resources
and the help of a companion, Rosalie welcomed 33 women that first year.
The refuge was both inadequate and impractical, and a series of moves
took place over the next five years before land could be purchased to
build a proper maternity home and convent.
After the first year of religious formation (1846-47), eight sisters
took the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, together
with a fourth vow to serve poor, single mothers. With a view to forming
“a corps of midwives,” they soon began formal medical training in
obstetrics and gynecology.
Read the Full Story Here on the Knights of Columbus Website : Midwife of Mercy