Friday 9 October 2015

Year of Consecrated Life: Sisters of St. Joseph

This month in our Year of Consecrated Life series we are featuring the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto, who arrived in the city on October 7th, 1851. 

In the history of the Catholic Church, a lot of the hardest social work has been taken up by Religious Sisters. Orders of women religious have been responsible for running hospitals and schools as well as reaching out to vulnerable and marginalized populations. 

One of the earliest orders to come to Toronto was the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ). The congregation was originally founded in Le Puy-en-Velay, France in 1648. Like so many other orders, the Sisters were disbanded during the French Revolution, and many of the members were jailed or executed. One of the Sisters, Jeanne Fontbonne, was able to refound the order in 1807 in Lyons. In 1836, a group of Sisters was sent to St. Louis, Missouri, and in 1851, four Sisters from that group led by Sister Delphine Fontbonne headed to Toronto at the request of Bishop de Charbonnel. 

Depiction of the arrival of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Toronto from Frontier Women: Sisters of St. Joseph,
written by Sister Veronica O'Reilly, CSJ, with artwork by Pierre Huffner, 1986.
Religious Orders Series, Sisters of St. Joseph

The work of the Sisters of St. Joseph quickly expanded. They became health care workers, educators, and cared for the city's poor. In Toronto, they founded House of Providence, Sunnyside / Sacred Heart Orphanage, St. Michael's Hospital, Our Lady of Mercy Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, and St. Joseph's College. Sisters from Toronto went to Hamilton, London, Barrie, and other Ontario places as well as expanding into Western Canada. 

St. Joseph's Convent, Wellesley and Bay, 20 September, 1877
Photographs Collection, PH 28S-11P
Originally published in James Esson's Glimpses of Toronto.
A Sister nurses patients at St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, ca. 1954
Photographs Collection, PH 28S-18P
Original held by St. Michael's Hospital Archives
House of Providence, 1914. Originally located on Power Street, near St. Paul's Basilica.
Photographs Collection, PH 31P-227AL(17)
Sacred Heart Orphanage, 1914. Located on the site of present day St. Joseph's Hospital in Sunnyside.
Photographs Collection, PH 31P-227AL(22)

The Sisters of St. Joseph continue to be dedicated to working in the community in many different ways. For more photos and more information about the history and present work of the Sisters of St. Joseph, check out their website.

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