Jeanne Le Ber

Jeanne Le Ber was born on January 4, 1662 in Montreal. She was the second child of Jacques Le Ber and Jeanne Le Moyne. Jeanne was one of the first girls born in Ville-Marie (today’s Montreal). She was the goddaughter of Jeanne Mance and Paul de Chomedy de Maisonneuve. Jeanne Le Ber grew up in Montreal.

It seems that at a very early age, Jeanne used to visit her godmother, Jeanne Mance. The girl must have been very impressed by her godmother who was not married, and who lived alone in the silence of her room taking part in solitary work. From 1674 to 1677, Jeanne was to spend three years in Quebec City with the Ursulines who were marked by the strong personality of Marie Guyart de l'Incarnation, founder of that branch of the order.

The Ursulines in Quebec City had a reputation for training in social skills and for religious instruction. They excelled in the spiritual aspects and Christian education, as well as the embroidered works they used to decorate the altars in the new churches built in the new parishes throughout the colony.

Embroidery and lace-making were part of the educational program. Blanket stitch, chain stitch, satin stitch and more, Jeanne learned all of the secrets of the art and became expert at making altar cloths. Then she came back to Montreal, where she decided to recluse herself, to go into the depths of the soul searching. She spent 35 years of her life in reclusion, without pronouncing a word. Nevertheless her silence was not the powerless muteness of someone who does not know how to talk. Jeanne realized that a certain quality of silence weighs more than all words. With her silence she taught what life was. She invited people to recreate contacts with others, even those who are mute, in order to weave warm, subtle, empathic bonds with others in the heart of a world that is based on performance, consumption, and social success at any price. Jeanne Le Ber was able to maintain a human balance throughout the 35 years of her reclusion.

During all her reclusion and silence, Jeanne was in step with life in New France. She was called on to help and people trusted in her prayers. She fulfilled a prayer function for the greater community. She prayed while the others worked. Her radical search for God inspired many Canadians of that era.

Jeanne has given inhabitants the courage to deal with all their problems and to resist. Jeanne Le Ber passed away on October 3, 1714 at the age of 52. As a result of her life of adoration and intercession, she was considered the "Angel of Ville Marie" (today Montreal).

By the way, in Quebec a votive lamp is giving perpetual light: Lit in 1717 by nuns in the convent of the Ursulines, Quebec, it is three hundred years later, still burning brightly.

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