In Quebec, the native Canadian province of Emilie Tavernier Gamelin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence, hundreds of young women responded to the call to religious life, following in the foundress’ footsteps. They strove to offer to society and the Church, their talent and expertise in the ministries of education, health and social services. They have been important instruments in the evolution of the society, helping those left behind to emerge from poverty.
The Sisters of Providence were quickly called to expand their activities, so urgent and multiple were the needs. Deeply imbued with the charism of their foundress, they responded to the cry of those who were in need, whether in urban areas or in the most remote and primitive locales. They often agreed to go where no one else could or wanted to go. They rode horses, traveled in carts, trains, boats, and even by dogsled, helping the needy from south of Chile to Alaska in the north.
On October 18, 1852, Sister Bernard Morin (Venerance Morin Rouleau, 1832-1929) and four companions left for Oregon Territory at the request of the bishop of that region. Then, unable to settle there, they left by boat for Montreal, because at that time there was no train crossing North America. They stopped in Valparaíso, Chile, on June 17, 1853.
Without knowing the customs or the language of the land, the sisters decided to respond to the urgent needs of the poor at the request of the local bishop, who saw them as a sign of Providence. They took charge of an orphanage in Santiago; it was the first of many houses of Providence in Chile. On March 17, 1880, an Apostolic Decree of the Holy See erected the Sisters of Providence of Chile as a new congregation separated from the Congregation of Sisters of Providence in Montreal. On December 7, 1905 the Constitutions of the Sisters of Providence of Chile were approved by Pope Pius X. The sisters would be called for nearly a hundred years the Hermanas de la Providencia de Chile, but their charism and spirituality never deviated from the spirit of Mother Gamelin. Over the years, the Sisters of Providence of Chile opened boarding schools, schools of various levels, orphanages, and homes for elderly women through Chile.
Vermont (United States)
May 1, 1854, through an invitation of the first bishop of the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, United States, the Sisters of Providence from Montreal took charge of the care of orphans. They did so in a building the bishop had purchased in 1853. This was named St. Joseph Orphanage and later renamed Providence St. Joseph. Children were served in this institution until 1974. Apart from this first work, the Sisters of Providence extended their action everywhere across the State of Vermont by multiplying their works in education, health and social service.
Northwestern United States
Following the first mission to the western United States which had proved fruitless, Sister Joseph of the Sacred Heart (Esther Pariseau, 1823-1902), accompanied by four other Sisters of Providence, arrived in the Washington Territory, United States, in December 1856. Less than a year after their arrival, these sisters founded the first hospital and one of the first schools in Vancouver, Washington.
During the following 46 years, Mother Joseph and the sisters met the needs of the people of the region by establishing hospitals, schools, orphanages, and homes for the elderly and mentally disabled. The Sisters of Providence in the American Northwest extended their ministries to the east in Montana and Idaho, to the south in Oregon and California, to the north in Alaska and the Canadian northwest, offering their services to anyone who needed them.
On July 6, 1886, the Sisters of Providence in the Northwest of the United States crossed the northern border of the country, and founded a hospital in New Westminster, British Columbia. It was the first mission in Western Canada.
With the arrival of several sisters from Montreal, the works of the Sisters of Providence in Western Canada multiplied quickly, extending east into the Prairies (central provinces of the country: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) and north into the Yukon Territory. Everywhere they went, they were especially in charge of providing care and comfort to the elderly, the homeless and orphans, mainly by providing them health care and by making home visits. They also taught in Indian Residential Schools. In addition to working in large cities like Vancouver and New Westminster in British Columbia, Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta, they worked in rural and remote areas where the lack of resources forced them to develop great aptitudes for resourcefulness and ingenuity.
Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul in Kingston, Ontario (Canada)
In the middle of the 19th century, the Bishop of Kingston, Ontario, Canada, communicated with the Sisters of Providence in Montreal in order to see if they could come and help establish works to aid the elderly and orphans of his city. Four Sisters of Providence arrived in Kingston in December of 1861 to contribute to the foundation of a religious community, the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul. After having trained the Sisters of the new congregation in the customs and the Rules of St. Vincent de Paul being followed by the Sisters of Providence in Montreal and having started some works, the founding sisters returned to Montreal on September 14, 1866.
Sisters of Our Lady of Seven Dolors (1887)
As early as 1849, Sister Albine Gadbois (1830-1874) was dedicated to the work with the deaf, teaching deaf girls, and answering a need in this second half of the 19th century. The Institute for the Deaf (Institut des Sourdes-Muettes) opened in 1851; three other sisters of the Gadbois family, also Sisters of Providence, contributed to the development of the institution.
Some of the young girls who lived there manifested the desire to enter the Community. On April 1, 1887, the Sisters of Providence erected a novitiate inside the Institute for the Deaf; they founded the community now known as the Sisters of Our Lady of Seven Dolors (SNDD).
The ministry of this community is for people who are deaf or hearing impaired. They are involved in pastoral care for the deaf, accompaniment of the deaf elderly, and several charities related to the deaf community.