Pilgrimage and visits

Activities are offered to immerse yourself in the life and values that animated Rosalie and that have been passed on to this day.

  • Pilgrimage in the footsteps of Rosalie

The members of the Rosalie-Cadron-Jetté Center team are leading a pilgrimage entitled In the Footsteps of Rosalie.

    • You can experience it in person, on the streets of Montreal, by walking through the different places Rosalie frequented and where she lived.
    • You can experience this same pilgrimage, but virtually, through a PowerPoint presentation, either by Zoom or in person.
  • Visit of the Museum at the FIM House

By appointment, the members of the CRCJ team will receive you at the FIM House for a visit of the House where we find a small Museum dedicated to Rosalie Cadron-Jetté and the work of the Misericordia Sisters.

  • The Rosalie-Cadron House-Museum

You can visit the Maison-Musée Rosalie-Cadron in Lavaltrie where Rosalie was born and where she spent the first 28 years of her life.

Contact us

In the footsteps of Rosalie

Virtual pilgrimage

As if you were there!

Step 1 - Introduction

Here we are at the beginning of our virtual pilgrimage in Rosalie’s footsteps, in downtown Montreal, where Rosalie lived, worked and welcomed the single mothers of the time.

The pilgrimage begins at the south door of Complexe Desjardins, in downtown Montreal, where the pilgrimage participants will gather, but before we start walking the streets of the city, let’s take a brief look at the main points of Rosalie’s life in order to situate ourselves in time and space.

Rosalie Cadron was born on January 27, 1794 in Lavaltrie, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.

She is the first child of Rosalie Roy and Antoine Cadron. She had a little brother who died at an early age and then a little sister named Sophie, born twelve years after her birth. His parents are modest farmers, but they lack nothing. Her mother is a midwife, which made Rosalie aware of pregnancy and childbirth.

Rosalie was raised in the values of her time. She could not read or write, like 75% of the people at the time. She will learn to read later, in the pious works she will frequent.

Rosalie is very attached to her family and is a joy to her parents. She was raised in a family environment where a family spirit of loving-kindness, simplicity, respectful welcome and hospitality towards the poor and the sick was found.

From her childhood, she has a natural attitude of piety, obedience, love for work and charity towards her neighbor.

Rosalie married Jean-Marie Jetté, age 33, in Lavaltrie at the age of 17 and they lived with Rosalie’s parents. They had 11 children, six of whom were born in Lavaltrie. The other five will die in infancy. Rosalie and Jean-Marie are raising their children with Christian values.

For them, parental responsibility goes beyond giving life, it is also necessary to make it grow in love. They accustom their children to reflexes of welcome, love for God and compassion for the poorest and the marginalized.

While in Lavaltrie, a first event inaugurates Rosalie’s future mission: a Lavaltrie family, whose daughter is pregnant, is strongly dishonored. The parents ask Mrs. Cadron, midwife, to kill the child and to burn it.

They are twins who are born. Mrs. Cadron gives all the care to the young mother and saves the life of her little ones. She brings them to her daughter Rosalie’s house, seven months pregnant with her fifth child. Rosalie and Jean-Marie are not able to keep the twins. They have them baptized and they are taken to the Grey Nuns’ Crib in Montreal.

Later, in order to establish the older sons on good land, the Jettés moved to the south shore. Rosalie was then 28 years old. She leaves behind her family home, land, a past of peace and well-being for the sake of her family. They stayed for two years in Verchères, then tried to buy land in the Presentation of Saint-Hyacinthe, in Montérégie.

This is a disaster. The seller of the farm is a swindler. Illegal dealings cause them to lose all their assets, they are ruined. Jean-Marie is having a hard time with this ordeal. He doesn’t sleep anymore. His morale falls. What to do? Where to go? What about the future of their children? Rosalie supports and encourages him, telling him that God will not abandon them, that He will take care of them. Despite these terrible injustices, Rosalie forgives in a heroic way.

She refuses to take revenge: “It is better to forgive this man than to dishonor his children.”

They moved to Montreal, where Jean-Marie’s brother was already living, and worked hard to improve their family’s lot. They have 7 children aged 2 to 15 years. Rosalie was 33 years old when she arrived in Montreal. That same year, she met a priest named Ignace Bourget. Unfortunately, other trials await him.

The Jeté’s will lose the five children born after their departure from Lavaltrie. Poverty does not give them a break. Moreover, Jean-Marie died in 1832 of cholera, carried off in 24 hours.

Rosalie was widowed at the age of 38. She remains alone with the responsibility of her children, including a one-month-old baby, Edwige, who will die at the age of 4. The older ones work and contribute to the maintenance of the family. She takes care of her sick mother who lives with them. Most people would have experienced despair, but Rosalie draws strength from prayer. She welcomes God’s grace to get through these trials.

His mother died 7 years after Jean-Marie. Father Bourget accompanied him in these trying moments.

Rosalie devotes her time to all the people around her who need help. His children grow old and get married. Rosalie now has more time to engage in charitable work. The services that Bishop Bourget (who became bishop of Montreal in 1840) requested of her were increasingly oriented towards helping single mothers.
She thus began to welcome pregnant single girls into her home. This is boldness at work! These mothers, rejected by society, do not know what to do. They often commit the irreparable, try to have a clandestine abortion, therefore very dangerously, attempt to kill themselves or kill their baby at birth… These heartbreaking situations torment Rosalie.

During five years of hard work, Bishop Bourget entrusted 25 pregnant girls to her. Rosalie managed to place these children or mothers in good families. Often it is his own children who take care of the mothers and babies and they even adopt them. Bishop Bourget recognized in Rosalie an extraordinary charism of mercy and compassion.

In the spring of 1845, Bishop Bourget called Rosalie to the bishopric and explained his plans for a religious community. This request upsets her. This was fine for the assistance to single mothers, whom she called “her dear children”, but from there to founding a religious community. She wondered how she could form aspirants to religious life. Rosalie takes a time of discernment and prayer to see if this is the will God has for her.

She finally agrees to undertake this bold mission of mercy. This was the beginning of an adventure that still lasts today. Mgr Bourget then asked her to find a secret place for the deliveries. And as for the religious community, he said to her, “God wants it my daughter!”
So she found accommodation for pregnant girls.

Stage 2 - First location of the Hospice de Ste-Pélagie

Leave Complexe Desjardins and turn right on Jeanne-Mance Street. We then proceed to the site of the first Hospice of St. Pelagia where Rosalie began her work of mercy and her unconditional welcome to unwed mothers. The street was then called Saint-Simon and was much narrower than it is now.

This site was located in the house of his oldest son, Pierre Jetté, who had just married. He offered his mother the attic in which she climbed the same day by a ladder, fixed outside, with Domitille who helped her to arrange this first maternity. This house was very small and very low. It seemed to be sunk into the ground. We could see the day through the joints. It was very hot in summer and freezing in winter. There was only one room, very bare. Rosalie delivered babies there with the help of a midwife or Dr. G. B. Wilfrid Nelson.

This was a modest beginning for St. Pelagie’s Hospice.

The aspirants, future Sisters of Mercy, were called “Ladies of Charity of Saint Pelagie.

When Rosalie announced to her children that she was going to devote herself to this work from now on, it was a shock for them. They feared for their mother’s reputation and their own. She accompanied them with tact and patience and asked for the support of Bishop Bourget. He will make them understand their mother’s vocation and will ask them to accept the necessary sacrifice.

Rosalie moved in on May 1, 1845, and remained there until May 4, 1846, when she had to move out for lack of space.

During that first year, Rosalie welcomed 20 pregnant girls. There, as in the other homes, the girls could stay before and after their deliverance. She had great tenderness and kindness for these mothers. She saw them as her own daughters and wanted them to regain their value as women and mothers. Rosalie gave her bed when there was not enough room.

Rosalie’s children were terrified. They had difficulty admitting the misery in which their mother lived and worked. They wanted to take her by force to one of their homes, taking her clothes and personal belongings. She refused: “Take what you want, for my part, I’m staying here.” Rosalie had now given her life for these single mothers. Touched in her guts by their misery, she would have done anything to relieve their distress.

She said of them, “They are my heart!”

The first person to join Rosalie was Sophie Desmarets, 50, widow of Michel Raymond, sent by Bishop Bourget. Rosalie welcomed her like a sister.

Stage 3 - Part 1: the old church of St. James - Part 2: the episcopal palace burns

First part : the old Saint-Jacques church

Let’s continue the pilgrimage by starting the third stage of the journey in the streets of Montreal. From Jeanne-Mance Street (see Step 2), let’s go to Saint-Denis Street, a little north of Sainte-Catherine Street, where the facade of the former Saint-Jacques Church, now part of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), is located.

What we see here is the façade of the second Saint-Jacques church, the first one, the one Rosalie attended, having been reduced to ashes by the great Montreal fire of 1852.

We find ourselves in the places of Rosalie’s great piety, where she spent her Sundays and where she drew faith, hope and love to continue a life of help and welcome for human misery.

Today, when we walk through the front doors, we find these beautiful stained glass windows that have been left in place and embellish the space with a touch of history.

The place itself remains meaningful to those interested in the places Rosalie visited and lived during her Montreal life.

St. James Church was built between 1823 and 1825. Bishop Ignace Bourget acted as curate there for a few years and it is in this way that he met Rosalie and became her spiritual director.

Let’s remember that it was in 1827 that Rosalie arrived in Montreal with her husband Jean-Marie and her children, after having suffered difficult reverses of fortune. The brand new church, located not far from her home, offered Rosalie a welcome refuge and a prayerful comfort.

Over the years, as family obligations diminished a little, Rosalie was able to satisfy her strong faith by attending St. James Church assiduously. Bishop Bourget got to know her well, which led him to ask Rosalie to found a community to help single mothers.

Rosalie’s deep and intimate relationship with God was special. For her, God was mercy. She knew she was inhabited by his loving Presence and surrendered to him in complete confidence, she never felt alone. God guided her and accompanied her in what she had to live. His desire to do his will in everything was part of his way of living his life. His faith was abundantly nourished by the Word of God, prayer and the sacraments.

It is at this church, not far from her home, that Rosalie will draw the strength and courage to go through all the hardships she has experienced since her arrival in Montreal: extreme poverty, the death of Jean-Marie, of her children and of her mother.

She would get up early in the morning to pray and then leave for church. She would not return until all the masses were said. Then she would get to work. At 3 p.m., she would return to the church, and would not return until 7 p.m. She was seen for hours on end kneeling before the altar of the Blessed Virgin, motionless as a statue.

Part 2: The Episcopal Palace is burning

To continue the pilgrimage, you don’t have to go far: just turn the corner of Saint-Denis street and go east on Sainte-Catherine street. We will thus find ourselves in front of a façade of the former Saint-Jacques church, now integrated into the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). The first part of step 3, showed us another facade similarly integrated.

This site has not always been home to St. James Church! At the time of Rosalie, this was the new episcopal palace of Bishop Bourget. It was there that Rosalie said her unconditional “yes” to Bishop Bourget for the arduous mission he was entrusting to her.

With courage and strength, she will dare this path filled with the unknown, a path that will lead her to experience suffering, but also great joys and that will give meaning to her life by transforming her whole being and her actions.

Built in 1851, this building was intended to serve as the Bishop’s residence as well as to house his offices and those of the diocesan staff. Unfortunately, a significant event was to thwart Bishop Bourget’s plans: the Great Fire of Montreal on July 9, 1852!

A spark from a small stove in a wooden house was the cause of this huge fire that destroyed more than one thousand one hundred houses in addition to pushing ten thousand people into the street. Firefighters worked hard, but to make matters worse, the municipal water tank was empty! Cleaning work and pipe additions are underway.

We had to go to the St. Lawrence River to get water, which slowed down the work of the firefighters. In addition, the fire was spreading at high speed, aided by a strong wind. This disaster wiped out entire neighborhoods in Montreal. The first church of Saint James, as well as the bishop’s palace, did not escape this.

In 1852, Rosalie lived in a community at the corner of Lagauchetière and Campeau streets. The fire reached the vicinity of the convent, causing great fear to the nuns who had begun to bury the precious objects of the chapel in the garden. Fortunately, the fire ran out of steam right there.

Stage 4 - Wolfe Street House, 2nd location of St. Pelagie's Hospice

The fourth stage of our pilgrimage brings us to 1313 Wolfe Street in Montreal, the place where Rosalie, her companions and the foster mothers had to move on May 4, 1846, as the house of Rosalie’s son (see stage 2) had become too small for the growing needs of the Hospice of Saint Pelagie.

It was here that an important moment of the nascent community was lived. The novitiate of the future Community of the Misericordia Sisters opened its doors there on July 26, 1846, under the spiritual direction of Bishop Bourget.

Today, this building is the “Maison Jacqueline” of the organization La rue des Femmes, which helps women escape from homelessness.

Rosalie and her companions continued to welcome pregnant women and give them the necessary obstetrical care, while following their religious formation.

One of the new novices, Lucie Benoît, had her father, Pierre Benoît, who lived on the same street. This often helped the novitiate, which was rather poor, because the sisters had to beg for food. He offered his yard to the sisters where they could split their wood and hang the hospice laundry on his drying line.

In this house, a small chapel with a Way of the Cross was built. Mass was celebrated there on Sundays and once a week. The chapel was so small that the girls attended mass in the corridor with some of the Sisters. The Sisters slept in a very small dormitory. The girls who gave birth slept in the delivery room.

At that time, Father Antoine Rey was the director of the house. He was a French priest, a good man, but austere in terms of penances, especially fasting, even for single mothers.

Bishop Jean-Charles Prince was coadjutor and replaced Bishop Bourget who was away in Rome. In November 1846, he announced to the novices that they should leave their “worldly clothes and take on a religious costume.”

The difficult living conditions do not prevent Rosalie and her companions from believing in the validity of their work. The owner of the house liked the Sisters and their work, but no one wanted to rent out his accommodations because of the neighborhood of single mothers that disgraced the environment. So he sent them a notice of dismissal. Bishop Prince sought a new home for the maternity ward, but people closed the door in his face with contempt.

Bishop Prince came to the novitiate on April 6, 1847, and asked Rosalie and her companions to pray with him to the God of Mercy through the intercession of St. Pelagia, their patroness. The novena ended on April 14 without any results and time was running out.

The next day, Bishop Prince was inspired to go see Mr. John Donegani. This one had 65 properties. His approach was beyond his expectations. Mr. Donegani lent one of his houses, on the corner of St. Catherine and St. André, free of charge for one year, and thereafter, 60 piasters per year. Rosalie had this confidence in God’s providence. She said, “God has entrusted this work to us to ensure its success.

Stage 5 - Donegani House, 3rd location of St. Pelagie's Hospice

On April 26, 1847, it is the move, the third in 2 years. A cart driver carries the girls for free, few at a time, so as not to attract attention.

We are now at the next step of our pilgrimage, at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Saint-André streets.

In this old photo, we see the building called the Donegani House, named after its owner and benefactor of the nascent community. It was in this house that an important event in the life of Rosalie and in that of the community took place: the foundation, on January 16, 1848, of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy.

The hardships were beyond what the Sisters had experienced before. Bishop Bourget, arriving from Rome, was shaken by so much poverty. They are made with bread and water. We responded to external orders: shoemaking, laundry, sewing, but for very little in return. The mothers were served what was collected. Rosalie encouraged the Sisters and blessed God for their dedication and generosity.

No sooner had they settled into their new home than another misfortune befell Montreal in the summer of 1847: a typhus epidemic! The victims were numerous, among others, the abbot Ray and the midwife, Mrs. Montrait. Two other Sisters were affected. If the disease spread, the mission was in jeopardy. Bishop Bourget sent them a relic of Saint Beatrix which Rosalie displayed in the chapel. Two sisters who were thought to be in a coma were healed.

The foundation of the community.

Bishop Bourget prepares the novices through the “Exercises of Saint Ignatius”.

On January 16, 1848, Rosalie and seven of her companions made religious profession and took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and a fourth, the very foundation of their mission, that of “serving poor girls and women in pregnancy and childbirth.

The next day, the Sisters were nominated for different positions. Sister Sainte-Jeanne-de-Chantal was elected superior and Rosalie, now Mother de la Nativité, was appointed councilor. Rosalie will be confronted with the jealousy of the Superior. However, she will show great spiritual maturity in her behavior.

In order to perfect their knowledge of midwifery and at the request of the College of Physicians of Lower Canada, Rosalie, then 55 years old, and her companions acquired advanced training from Dr. Eugène-Hercule Trudel and received their midwifery certificate in 1849. Here we see a copy of Rosalie’s certificate whose name was Sister of the Nativity. Thus, Rosalie became, with her fellow professionals, a pioneer in obstetrics.

They agreed to train medical students in a small white house located behind the nuns’ house. Unfortunately, the nuns had to accept, a few years later, to cease their activities as midwives for the benefit of those they had helped to train!

We now find a condo building in the same place where the Donegani house was.

Step 6 - First Motherhouse owned by the Sisters

After stopping at the corner of Saint-André and Ste-Catherine streets, we continue our way down Saint-André street towards the south. One corner and we stop in front of what was the first Mother House of the community for eighty years, from 1851 to 1931 to be precise.

In 1851, the need for space became more and more pressing. The Sisters are looking for a home, trusting that God will provide for their needs. A plot of land, where there were two houses, one red brick and one gray, attracted their attention and full of confidence they said to themselves “Oh, if the good Lord would make us have it.”

Their wish comes true, the property is sold at auction. The Sisters barely bought it. Mr. Berthelet lent them $2,500 for the purchase of this 60,000 square foot lot located at the corner of Dorchester (now René-Lévesque) and Saint-André streets.

Construction began in 1853, wing by wing, according to the financial means of the community. The Maternity Ward for Single Mothers welcomes an ever-increasing number of protégés and occupies a separate wing.

The entrance to the Mother House, located in the middle wing, has a beautiful pediment. The chapel was located at the back of the advanced part. The bell that called people to prayer was named Marie Louise, in honor of its godmother Marie-Louise Hurteau.

No one lives in these old wings anymore, which are now considered too unstable to house offices or various activities. Their presence on René-Lévesque Boulevard is a reminder of an important and essential work, that of the reception of single mothers by the Misericordia Sisters.

Here we see the dome of the chapel. This photo was taken in May 2013.

The statue of the Virgin Mary which was carved into the walls and cannot be moved.

A picture of the door of Rosalie’s room which was near the chapel. It was in this room that Rosalie died on April 5, 1868, at the age of 70. During these last years, Rosalie experienced great physical suffering. She accepted her illness and offered her sufferings for the health of her mothers. Rosalie had a maternal love for them and she often said that she was “ready, for her, to start a new and more laborious life if it is God’s will”.

The door of the old Maternity Hospital at 890 René-Lévesque Boulevard in Montreal.

Step 7 - Part 1: Dr. Wolfred Nelson; Part 2: Notre Dame Church

Let’s take, now, the way Rosalie went to Dr. Wolfred Nelson. First, follow Saint-Hubert Street, then turn right on Saint-Antoine Street to head west along the Champ-de-Mars. At Saint-Laurent Boulevard, turn left and stop at the corner of Saint-Jacques Street.

We are standing in front of a building of La Presse on which a commemorative plaque is affixed.
This is where Dr. Wolfred Nelson’s house was located at the time.

Rosalie sometimes goes to fetch him in the middle of the night, walking from Wolfe Street, when a delivery proves difficult.
Dr. Nelson, a great patriot and the first mayor of Montreal, helped her until 1848, when Rosalie and her companions began their training in midwifery under the care of Dr. Eugène Hercule Trudel.

This is the lantern that belonged to Rosalie and is now in the museum of the Misericordia International Family House.

Second part : Notre-Dame church

Now let’s go back to St. James Street, heading west, until we reach Place d’Armes. Here we are in front of Rosalie’s reward: Notre-Dame church. The construction of this church was begun in 1823 and completed in 1829.

It replaced the very first church of Montreal which was built on the current Notre-Dame Street, just in front of it, facing west, as can be seen on the reproduction accompanying this text (this first church was destroyed in 1830).

It is in the new church, after having traveled a long way, rain or shine, in mud or snow, sometimes with more than one baby in her arms, that Rosalie and her companions carried the newborns to baptism.

The way from the maternity ward to the church was, more often than not, a way of the cross for the poor little sisters who had to endure the taunts of the crowd that recognized them and did not hesitate to insult them.

Once inside, the Sisters line up patiently as the babies they carry in their arms are often the last to be baptized.

This was the case until 1858, when Bishop Bourget agreed that babies could be baptized at the Misericorde maternity hospital.

Here is the picture of the actual Notre-Dame which became a basilica.

Step 8 - The house of Mr. Olivier Berthelet

We are in front of the Berthelet house located at the corner of Saint-François-Xavier and Place D’Youville.

This house was built between 1805 and 1815, by Olivier Berthelet’s father.
At that time, Mr. Olivier Berthelet, an influential political and business man in Montreal, was the benefactor of various communities and charitable works of Bishop Bouget. Several religious communities owe the survival of their works to him.

Mr. Berthelet brought considerable help to Rosalie’s work. He was for the Community a father of compassion; when he saw a real need, his good heart could not resist. It was the store of the poor. The hospice of St. Pelagie, whose living conditions were miserable, benefited from his donations; he provided furniture, clothing, food, firewood and many other necessities. His sister Thérèse was also one of the most constant supporters of the nascent work.

Olivier Berthelet (1798-1872)In addition, the Misericordia Sisters are indebted to Mr. Olivier Berthelet for the construction of a large part of their buildings on Dorchester Street, as well as for donations in real estate.
Today, when we visit Pointe-à-Callières, we see in the basement the remains of the foundations of the Berthelet warehouses built in 1817.
Olivier Berthelet died on September 25, 1872 and was buried in the Grey Nuns’ cemetery on Guy Street.

Let’s now go to the last step of our pilgrimage, let’s follow Place D’Youville, westward to Saint-Pierre Street.

Step 9 - Grey Nuns Hospital

From Notre-Dame Church, Rosalie and the Sisters then went back to the Grey Nuns to bring the children to them. This hospital, today the residence of the Grey Nuns, is located at the corner of Place d’Youville and Saint-Pierre, at 138 Saint-Pierre Street.

These thirteen years (1845-1858) of arduous travel on foot from the Maternity Hospital to Notre-Dame Church and from that parish to the Grey Nuns’ hospital, with babies in their arms and through the seasonal bad weather and the grossest assaults, ended on November 5, 1858, when Bishop Bourget decided that the babies would be baptized directly at the Misericordia Maternity Hospital.

In 1889, 25 years after Mother Rosalie’s death, the Grey Nuns asked the Sisters of Mercy to provide lodging for the children born at their Maternity Hospital, because of the overcrowding of their crèche. It was then that the Misericordia Sisters organized their first crib for “their children”.

We thus end this walk in the footsteps of Rosalie. This pilgrimage taught us to discover this exceptional woman, Rosalie Cadron-Jetté, who lived a life of compassion and mercy and of extraordinary self-giving, and the work to which she dedicated the last 20 years of her life.

Although she led a simple and self-effacing life as a child, young girl, wife, mother, grandmother, foundress and nun, and although she continued her work in the shadows, she was recognized during her lifetime, at her death, and after her death, as a “woman of the Beatitudes”, imbued with an exceptional charism of mercy.

Rosalie is also considered a source of inspiration for our world today, in everything that has to do with life from conception to death.

Today, 170 years after the foundation of the Institute of the Misericordia Sisters, the International Family of Misericordia (Sisters and lay people) is still walking in the footsteps of Rosalie. This Family, made up of nearly 900 members, continues to perpetuate the charism bequeathed by Rosalie.

All are united by this spirituality of the heart and collaborate in solidarity in this same mission of service to single mothers and their children. Rosalie invites each member to commit himself with respect and discernment to human life from the moment of conception, recalling that God is the creator of this life