In 1856, after the first unsuccessful attempt, the Sisters of Providence sent a few of their own to help the pioneers in the American Northwest. Bishop Bourget dedicated the new mission to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and bestowed a new name on its young superior; from this time on, she was known as Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Sister Joseph led a group of four Sisters of Providence from Montreal to Fort Vancouver, in the Washington Territory, where they arrived on December 8 after a month of arduous travel.
On their arrival, the sisters did not even have a place to live. They soon established works and built buildings to shelter themselves. They opened a boarding school, later known as Providence Academy. In 1858, the sisters opened St. Joseph Hospital, the first permanent hospital in the Northwest. They also welcomed orphans and mentally ill persons. Mother Joseph loved being with the children, praying with them, sharing pancake suppers and little treats, teaching the ways of family, religion and work.
Mother Joseph also championed the incorporation of these charitable works, understanding that civic recognition would enhance the stability of the institutions while protecting the sisters’ rights under the law. To support the works, she and her companions took lengthy, dangerous trips by horseback and riverboat to the mines, begging for charity.