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Canada Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph - London

Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse

  • Corporate body
  • 1953-2007

The third Mother House for the Sisters of St. Joseph in London was in the former Hellmuth Ladies’ College, built by Bishop Isaac Hellmuth. This ladies’ college had 140 pupils with 100 of them boarders, including Charlotte Johnson, sister of poet Pauline Johnson. It was formally opened on Sept. 23, 1869 by HRH Prince Arthur, third son of Queen Victoria who became 10th Governor General of Canada. Hellmuth Ladies’ College stood like a stately home of England in a park with the city in the distance and country all around. There were Venetian glass doors, chandeliers, polished floors, wide corridors and a broad staircase. Ann Mills was the first principal of Hellmuth College from 1869-1872, and a chapel built in 1877 named St. Anne’s chapel in her honor stood on a summit to the left of the driveway.

Sadly, Hellmuth Ladies’ College went bankrupt and the Sisters purchased the property on June 10, 1899, opening their residence, novitiate and orphanage and renaming it Mount St. Joseph The formal opening took place on April 29, 1900. A procession several miles long including school children, clergy and church members made their way to the grounds from the Bishop’s palace and church for this grand occasion. Mount St. Joseph was both a convent and home for school-aged orphans until the Sisters moved to Sacred Heart Convent in 1914. After this, the building was used solely as an orphanage, with infants and pre-school children also cared for. The orphanage eventually stopped taking infants who were moved to St. Joseph’s Hospital Children’s Dept. Orphan children over two years of age were moved to Fontbonne Hall on Queens Avenue in 1953, and in 1967 Madame Vanier Services took over the care of the children. St. Anne’s chapel was torn down in 1925, and its bricks used to make repairs on the main building after a fire in 1925. A new chapel, also named St. Anne’s chapel, was built by the Sisters in 1909 and later demolished in 1976.

The need for a new Mother House for the Sisters living at Sacred Heart Convent was apparent by 1940, when a building committee was formed, presided over by Reverend Mother Constance Dunn. Eventually, a new building was designed and planned by Reverend Mother Margaret Coughlin. The sod turning took place on October 15, 1950, and construction began on October 21, 1951, with the building of a new chapel, Immaculate Conception chapel, beginning on January 3, 1953. The professed sisters moved to the old Hellmuth Ladies’ College building from Sacred Heart Convent on September 23, 1953, and the Generalate and Novitiate moved to the completed wings of the new building on November 3, 1953. The formal opening was on June 20, 1954, attended by Bishop John C. Cody and 5,000 members of the public. The new Mother House was also named Mount St. Joseph.

Mount St. Joseph overlooks the Thames River. It is constructed of limestone with wood-trim in a grey-green shade. The central tower with its simple cross can be seen for miles, and extending from this tower are the wings of the building. It took two years and eight months to build. The architects were Watt and Tillman of London, and the General Contractor was Anglin-Norcross Ontario Ltd. The marble for the Immaculate Conception Chapel was supplied by T. Carli-Petrucci Ltd. Of Montreal, the woodwork by Globe Furniture Co. of Waterloo, and the marble and terrazzo in the main entrance on first floor main corridors by V. D’Ambrosio & Co. Ltd., Toronto.

The building had reception parlours with crystal chandeliers from the old Mount St. Joseph (Hellmuth Ladies’ College) building, a library, a reception hall with marble pillars, floor and walls. The mosaic ceiling of the chapel was designed by Count Alexander Svobodo, a member of the Conn Arts Studio in Toronto. The floor, walls and columns are of marble, as is the altar which is a solid piece of green St. Denis marble weighing 4,600 pounds. The kneelers and statues are also of marble. The stained-glass windows in the nave and sanctuary were made in Florence Italy and designed by Rodolfo Fanfani of the firm Guido Polloni. The organ is a Casavant two-manual organ, first installed at Sacred Heart Convent. It was rebuilt and slightly enlarged upon installation in the new chapel in 1953.

The grounds, landscaped by Gordon Culham, contain many beautiful trees and shrubs and a rose garden, as well as a playing field and four tennis courts. The grotto on the south end of the grounds is a replica of the grotto at Lourdes. It was built in 1954 by parishioners of Kingsbridge led by their pastor, Fr Henri Van Vynckt. It has a reproduction of the statue of Our Lady based on the original at Lourdes, and a statue of the kneeling figure of St. Bernadette. It contains stones from each of grottoes of the world in its stonework (Lourdes, Fatima, La Salette). Separated from the grotto by a small bridge, was Medaille House which opened in 1969, and was used for retreats.

The former Mount St. Joseph (Hellmuth Ladies’ College) building served several purposes after the orphanage was moved. A Kindergarten and pre-kindergarten ran from 1954 to 1975 for ages 4-6 years in the basement of its chapel for children who lived outside London. The building was renamed Fatima Hall High School and Aspirancy in 1957. This initiative was started by Mother Margaret Coughlin in London and at Edmonton Regional House. The Aspirancy provided spiritual and academic education for girls interested in religious life in grades 9-12 - ran from 1957 to 1967. The building also housed laundry and maintenance facilities.

In 1955, the second, third and fourth floors were added to the Novitiate wing. From 1958 to 1959, a new Academy wing and the east wing of the Juniorate were added. In 1961, there were fourth floor additions to the southeast and northeast wings. In 1968, Ignatia Hall wing was opened as an infirmary and residence for the senior sisters. It also housed Generalate offices and the Medaille Program Centre, which was located on the ground floor.

A music school had started at Sacred Heart Convent in the early 1920s. With the move to the new Mount St. Joseph, this music school fell under the principalship of Sr. Callistus Arnsby, and was renamed St. Joseph’s School of Music. Three music studios were set up in the old Mount St. Joseph (Hellmuth Ladies’ College) building and later moved to the new building. The music school taught to the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music exam requirements and gave piano, violin, singing and music theory lessons. It amalgamated with the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music on the university campus in 1982.

The girls’ school which had been at Sacred Heart Convent moved to Mount St. Joseph in 1953, and to its own new wing in 1958. The school was both a boarding and day school. Known as Mount St. Joseph Academy, it provided education to over 3,000 young women until it closed in 1985.

In 1975, patients and their relatives from the transplant program at University Hospital were given accommodation at Mount St. Joseph. After the Academy closed, the third and fourth floor of its wing became known as the Guest Wing, accommodating up to 75 guests who could take meals in the Sisters’ dining room. The wing also was used for St. Joseph’s Health Care Centre. The Guest Wing program closed in 2005.

On April 20 1976, the old Mount St. Joseph (Hellmuth Ladies’ College) building demolition began. Ellis Don Construction completed work on a new laundry, maintenance facilities and pool on Feb. 22, 1977. The pool was used by the Ursulines, Seminarians, Sisters, Academy students, and patients from St. Mary’s Hospital.

On December 8, 2005, the property was sold to Ivest Properties and London Property Corporation and leased to Retirement Residences Real Estate Trust (REIT).

Assembly

  • Corporate body
  • 1990- 2009

Chapter meetings happened every four years and were the most official gatherings of the Sisters. A Chapter is the formal, decision making body of the congregation at which the leadership council is elected, and decisions are taken by the membership as a whole. Assemblies happened in the middle period between Chapters, in other words every two years. Assemblies were meant as a time to get together, to discuss decisions made at Chapters, to make or evaluate new potential decisions, and to prepare for major works to do at the next Chapter. This was also the time for celebration and prayer. Assembly meetings lasted for two days.

Assembly meetings were a necessary part of the congregation’s government structure. For every Assembly, a summary was written about what had been discussed, or questioned, or proposed during the meeting. The documentation was often accompanied by photos of participants.

Awards

  • Corporate body
  • 1999-2012

The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in London, Ontario, has received awards from external organizations recognizing their contributions and leadership, and for their significant contribution to Canadian communities and fellow Canadians. The Sisters of St. Joseph received the “Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award” for more than 130 years of distinguished service. They received the “Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal” for persons who have made a significant contribution to Canada to their community or to their fellow Canadians. This medal was created to mark the 50th anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty to the throne. Two Sisters received the “Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal” in 2012 for their anti-poverty advocacy, community leadership, and support of affordable housing. The Sisters of St. Joseph received the “Leading Women, Building Communities” award for their exceptional community leadership to improve the lives of women and girls in Ontario.

Galahad Hospital, Alta.

  • Corporate body
  • 1927-1978

In 1927, following the Sisters of St. Joseph's exit from Stettler, Alberta, Archbishop Henry Joseph O'Leary decided that a hospital was greatly needed in Galahad, Alberta. His request for one was granted by the General Superior and her Council, and in 1927, the Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Galahad. At this time, the only building available to the Sisters was a small two story teacherage. The building, which had no plumbing, consisted of only six rooms and came with little to no equipment that could be used for medical purposes. The Sisters were thus frequently required to improvise and make-do with what was available. During these early years in Galahad, the government provided no financial aid to the Sisters; consequently, they depended on funding provided to them by the community and via bank loans.

Throughout 1927, increasing numbers of settlers arrived in Galahad, Alberta. At times, this led to crowding within the existing hospital and to a heavier workload for the Sisters. Sister Jane Frances O'Rourke and Mother Patricia Coughlin are said to have played crucial roles during this time. Due to the growing role of the hospital and because of space constraints, plans for a new hospital building were soon underway.

In 1927, Mr. Hugh Taylor, (the sole real estate agent in Galahad), offered the Sisters four and a half acres of land on which to build their new hospital. Following this acquisition of land, bids were tendered and the C. Gordon Company of Vegreville won the construction job. The Wheatland Municipality contributed $2,500 to construction costs. The new building, which consisted of two stories, a brick interior and large grounds, was officially opened by His Grace Archbishop O'Leary on September 3rd, 1928.

In 1932, the average number of patients was 20, and most were from the towns of Galahad, Forestburg, and Alliance. The first doctors to work in the hospital were Dr. Maynes and Dr. A.J. Cook. In 1947, Sister Loyola Donovan became Administrator and Sister Genevieve Casey became Superior of the Galahad community.

In 1953, having conferred with the community, the Sisters advised that a new building was once again needed. They requested that a new structure be built - one that could house 45 beds and a 10 bed bassinet nursery. In 1953, having won the contract, Burns and Dutton started work on the project with Mr. Alex Fellows in the role of construction superintendent. The cost of the new building was estimated at $250,000 and was funded through a long-term loan from the Bank of Montreal in Forestburg. In September 1954, the new building was officially opened and blessed by Monsignor Carleton.

In 1955, renovations to the old hospital were undertaken. Upon completion of the renovations, the building became living accommodations for the Sisters. During this time, the Chapel was also relocated nearer to the new hospital and later blessed by Archbishop MacDonald in May, 1955.

In 1962, an Advisory Board was established that included local business men and district farmers. This Board was meant to advise and assist the Sisters with matters regarding the hospital as well as provincial and municipal affairs.

On August 4th, 1973, St. Joseph's Hospital in Galahad was granted full accreditation. Toward the end of the 1970s, many physicians were leaving rural practice and vacancies created by retirees were not being filled. In the meantime, the Sisters also faced staffing problems. Since Vatican II, more professions and apostolates had become available to Sisters which resulted in a decline of health care apostolates. All of these changes led the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph to re-evaluate their ownership of St. Joseph's Hospital, Galahad.

On August 31st, 1979, the Sisters of St. Joseph gave up their ownership of St. Joseph's Hospital, Galahad. Thereafter, ownership was transferred by the Department of the Ministry of Health to Flagstaff-Hughendan Hospital District #55. During the period the Sisters administered the hospital, it grew from 23 beds in 1945 to 40 beds in 1978.

Jubilees

  • Corporate body
  • 1932-2017

Jubilees are celebrations, where Sisters renew their vows and celebrate their 25th, Golden (50th), Diamond (60th), Grace (70th), 75th and 80th year anniversaries with the congregation.

The jubilee date is calculated from the reception date which takes place nine months after the postulant entered the convent. At the reception ceremony, the postulant received the habit.

Jubilees are celebrated one to two times a year, depending on the number of Sisters celebrating anniversaries. When there are two jubilee ceremonies in one-year, younger Sisters are recognized in May, and senior Sisters are honoured in September. Unless the Sisters decide that they want a private jubilee, friends and family are invited to the hour-long mass and large feast that make up the day of celebration.

Reunions, where Sisters who left the congregation were invited to return for visitation, occurred far less frequently than jubilees. The last reunion took place when the congregation was moving to a new convent in 2007, and wanted to give former Sisters one last chance to walk through the building. Much like jubilees, reunions were a day long event, with an hour-long prayer service and lots of good food.

Mount Saint Joseph Academy

  • Corporate body
  • 1950-1985

The Mount Saint Joseph Academy was a school for girls directed by the Sisters of St. Joseph from 1950 to 1985. It was initially located at Sacred Heart Convent with a mere six students. In 1953, it moved to the newly built Mount St. Joseph convent property, opening in the former Hellmuth Ladies' College and Mount St. Joseph Orphanage building. At this time, there were 26 students but by 1957, this number had grown to 105 students. At this time, 80 girls resided at the school and 25 were day students. In 1958, the Academy was moved to a newly completed wing in the new Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse building.

The mission of the Academy was to provide secondary education for girls in which the Catholic faith was integrated into the curriculum and school life. Students had the option of being day students if they lived in the area or boarders if they came from far away. Students came from across Canada and 10%-15% came from other countries including the West Indies, Mexico, and Hong Kong.

Music was always an important part of life at the Academy, perhaps due to the influence of the St. Joseph’s School of Music which was also run by the Sisters. Students who wished to learn to play musical instruments did so on their own time, usually through the School of Music. They could also volunteer to join the Glee Club, one of the choirs, or the choral group called the Academy Singers which was well-known in the area.

In addition to regular curriculum classes, students were required to sign up for an activity for their enrichment and cultural development. These activities included photography, driving school, typing, fencing, drama, ballet, horseback riding, charm class, scripture study, physical education, crafts, and home economics club.

The Academy closed in 1985, and the wing that it occupied became a guest wing for relatives of hospitalized patients, also run by the Sisters. It is estimated that over the course of 32 years, between 2,000 and 3,000 students received at least part of their high school education at the Academy.

Oral Histories and Autobiographies

  • Corporate body
  • 1992-2012

The series contains oral histories and autobiographies of some of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the London Diocese. Many of the oral histories included were conducted for the Federation Collaborative History Project. The Federation includes all of the different Congregations of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Canada. The oral histories included in the Federation project are those of a select few Sisters. These Sisters are: Noella Armstrong, Mary Doyle, Augustine Long, Margaret Ferris and Cathleen Flynn. Many of the Sisters discussed memories of their childhood and their lives before entering the convent. Most felt the call to service early in life and shared stories of their years preparing to become a professed Sister. Also included in the series are the memoirs of Sister Rosary Fallon, who was a gifted musician and teacher.

Policy

  • Corporate body
  • 1968-2012

Policy development in the congregation takes place when there is a need to create an approach to handle certain situations; in other words, policy development is an as-needed activity. Changes and revisions to policy are typically determined by new regulations released by the government, and these regulations are then incorporated into policy by congregational staff, such as Human Resources, as well as committees consisting of other staff and Sisters who wish to participate in the policy creation. The purpose of policy and procedures is to ensure that all members of the congregation, from the Sisters to the staff, are aware of their roles and responsibilities in creating a safe, cohesive environment that reflects the values of the congregation. This policy series mainly focuses on the roles and expectations of the Sisters specifically, but also includes important information regarding manuals and committees that pertain to the congregation’s work environment.

Renewal Programs

  • Corporate body
  • 1974, 1980-1981

Renewal programs were recommended for all religious communities, as a result of the Second Vatican Council. Events consisted of presentations, reflection and discussions regarding the Church, personal commitment, growth in relationship with Christ, and service to others. Two major events are recorded: 1974 and 1981. Both events were held twice to accommodate all the members of the Congregation. Prior to the program of 1981, a Vow Committee was formed to organize the proceedings. Minutes and correspondence and resources are contained in the series.

Rimbey Hospital, Alta.

  • Corporate body
  • 1932-1949

The hospital was called St. Paul's Hospital and was owned by the Archdiocese of Edmonton. The Order of Benedictines ran the hospital for the archdiocese until they had to return to the United States due to their declining numbers. Archbishop Henry Joseph O'Leary then asked the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Diocese of London to take over operations. Sisters Loretto Traynor, Liguori O'Dwyer and Lenora Doyle were the first Sisters from the congregation to work at the hospital. They were all trained nurses and were known for their success managing the day-to-day operations despite financial difficulties. This was because there was no financial support from the provincial government for private hospitals at this time. By 1945, the hospital had 30 beds.

In the 1940s, it became evident that a new and larger hospital was needed. A district vote was held to decide whether the new hospital should remain a Catholic hospital or become a municipal hospital. The vote was in favour of a municipal hospital. The Archdiocese felt this was for the best because they were having trouble financing the hospital without provincial support and thought it was in the best interests of the community to ensure quality of healthcare by relinquishing ownership. Upon the transition of ownership and the withdrawal of the Sisters, they were thanked by the community for the work they had done. The Sisters returned to Edmonton or to London and were reassigned to other positions.

Sacred Heart Convent

  • Corporate body
  • 1914-1953

The building which became Sacred Heart Convent was built in 1854. It was originally the home of Lawrence Lawrason, London's first Police Magistrate. The first structure, which had the Sacred Heart statue facing it, was the part that overlooked Dundas Street. In 1867, an additional and major structure was added. The Religious of the Sacred Heart operated a school at this location, but withdrew in September, 1913. The Sisters of St. Joseph began to use the building for commercial classes in two rooms as well as elementary classes in two other rooms. The commercial class provided training in typing, stenography, commercial law and other subjects related to business. On March 31, 1914 through the efforts of Sir Philip Pocock and Mr. T. J. Murphy, the Sacred Heart Convent and property ownership was secured by the Sisters of St. Joseph. The owners, the Religious of the Sacred Heart, discounted the price for the Sisters who were aided by donations from Philip Pocock and Ed Shea. The building became the new Mother House and Novitiate for the Sisters of St. Joseph. The address was 401 Queens Avenue.

The convent housed a Casavant organ, made in Quebec by a company known world-wide for their craftsmanship, and installed in 1931. The Sisters who lived at the convent started teaching music, establishing the Sacred Heart School of Music, later the St. Joseph School of Music, and even an orchestra called the Sacred Heart Concert Orchestra. Mr. César Borré, a renowned Belgian musician, was a friend to the Sisters and helped with music.

The first six students from Sacred Heart Commercial High School attended their graduation ceremonies at St. Peter’s Hall Auditorium in October, 1938. When a Departmental inspection took place at the school, it was determined that instruction was above average, and that graduates with a general business or diploma had an education equivalent to a secondary school diploma.

In 1915, the Separate School Board bought some of the Sacred Heart School property at the northwest corner. Three years later, the School Board rented room in the convent for a household science class. In 1936, the City Council asked that eight feet in from the property line be given to them, and an iron fence was erected along the new line. In 1946, property on the corner of Queens Avenue and Colborne Street was sold to the School Board.

In 1946, the Sacred Heart Convent site was chosen to build a new Catholic high school which would include both a junior and senior school. Until rooms were built for the senior high school, the first two floors of the west wing of the convent were rented to the Catholic School Board and became Catholic Central High School. The boys, with the Christian Brothers as teachers, were on the first floor, and the girls with Sisters as teachers were on the second floor. The Sisters continued to teach girls at Sacred Heart School in grades 9 and 10, while boys in grades 9 and 10 remained at St. Peter’s Parish Hall at what was called De La Salle High School. In 1950, a boarding school for girls was started at Sacred Heart Convent with six students. In the same year, rooms in the convent were rented for high school classes.

The Senior School, named Catholic Central High School (grades 11-13) opened in September 1950 in the former Sacred Heart Convent, being the amalgamation of Sacred Heart Commercial School (1914-1950), St. Angela’s College (run by the Ursuline Sisters from 1913-1950) and De La Salle High School (1920-1951). The Senior School was administered separately from the Junior School. This latter school which opened in September, 1952, was named Catholic Central Separate School (grades 7-10). Classes started being taught at Catholic Central High School on September 2, 1950 in its new building, with Father Joseph Finn and Sister Mary Angela Flaherty as associate principals. Eventually, the Christian Brothers left in 1952. The next year, a special class for special needs students was set up, which moved the following year to three rooms in Sacred Heart School.

In 1953, the building ceased to be a convent and the boarding school moved to the newly built Mount St. Joseph, and in 1958 to the newly completed wing. It was now called Mount St. Joseph Academy.

In 1955, the property was transferred to the Catholic School Board for offices and classrooms. By 1959, most of Sacred Heart Convent had been demolished except the chapel wing, which was torn down in 1986. The new Catholic Central building opened in September 1959 with Sister Elaine Dunn as Principal and with 247 students. In 1960, the formal opening of Catholic Central High School took place. In 1967, the separate school (grades 9-10) and high school (grades 11-13) operated under one principal as Catholic Central High School. In 1986, the North Wing was built, and further renovations took place up until 2000. A blessing and rededication of the school was held in October, 2000. Catholic Central High School held a 50th anniversary reunion in 2001.

Sister Lists

  • Corporate body
  • 1911-2012

This series contains records of the activities of the Sisters including their occupational work appointments, residences, vows, and any departures from the congregation that occurred. The material contained in this series is primarily administrative and allowed the Sisters to keep track of membership, duties, and contact information.

Occupational work was assigned based both on the needs of the community and the skills and training of the Sisters. The primary occupational work fulfilled by Sisters outside of the congregation was in education or nursing, but Sisters also fulfilled roles within the congregation such as housekeeping, and administrative work. With an increasingly aging population, there has been a greater dependence on lay staff to fulfill these sorts of duties within the community.

The large range in dates of the records provides insight into changes that have taken place in the congregation since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), most notably in the lists of name changes and the lists of sisters who withdrew from the congregation. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, women who joined religious orders received new names of patron saints when they took their vows to represent their separation from the lay world. The Second Vatican Council called upon religious orders to return to their roots and emphasized the value of not separating religious life from the rest of the world, and a large part of this was having Sisters reclaim their baptismal names. Some Sisters felt that the changes imposed by the Second Vatican Council were too much, and there was an exodus of withdrawals in the later 1960s.

Sisters of St. Joseph Concert Band

  • Corporate body
  • 1968-1973

The Sisters of St. Joseph Concert Band began as part of the Centennial Program for the London based Sisters, which lasted from December 1968 until December 1969. However, the Concert Band lasted well beyond the Centennial year, and was quite successful, playing at ecumenical concerts, music festivals, and performance venues from Quebec City to Edmonton and many places in between. From March 1968 to June 1970, the Sisters of St. Joseph Concert Band performed in 15 cities, at 35 public concerts, traveled 8,000 miles and performed for over 23,000 people. Its conductor was the well-known and respected Mr. Martin Boundy, until 1971 when Mr. Donald H. Jones became the Band's conductor.

The instruments first arrived on March 17, 1967, and the Sisters began practicing. Their first concert was on March 19 (St. Joseph's Day) in the Mount St. Joseph Academy Auditorium in London, Ontario.

The Concert Band first officially performed at Catholic Central High School on March 15, 1968. On October 1 of the same year, they played at the Kiwanis Convention on the ground floor of Centennial Hall in London. Another significant performance included the 1968 Waterloo Instrumental Clinic on April 27, 1968, when they laid down their instruments and performed as a choir and received a standing ovation from their audience.

Sisters' Ministries

  • Corporate body
  • 1964-2007

Ministries, which take the form of professional roles of service, are fundamental to the Sisters of St. Joseph, as helping others has always been important to their mission. Professional roles such as nurse, music teacher or homemaker are created in order to fill occupational gaps in the community or the congregation. For example, when the community was in desperate need of music teachers, many Sisters were assigned the ministry of “music teacher.” Before the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965, these professional roles were assigned to Sisters by the head superior in the form of a note on their pillow, and sisters obediently performed their ministries. After the Council, which made the congregation question their vows of obedience, this tradition was altered so that Sisters could form and enlist in ministries that appealed to their specific interests in the congregation and the community.

Sisters may engage in a ministry during their second year as a novice, but they cannot assume a professional role until they take their temporary vows and become Juniorates. In order to perform their ministries, Sisters are required to attend the same university or college programs that other members of the community would attend to perform the same roles. For this reason, training is constantly changing and evolving, as are the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Social Justice

  • Corporate body
  • 1974-2013

It is part of the congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada’s mandate to live out contemplative spirituality in ways that bring about systemic justice. This is done through research, political advocacy, activism and education. Consistent themes of this work have been the opposition of poverty and human trafficking, and the support of the environment. The Social Justice Committee was formed in approximately 1974, to help organise and promote this outreach work. It became the Our Call to Justice Committee in approximately 1980. In 2004, in London, the Office for Children and Systemic Justice was formed, becoming part of the Federation for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada in 2006.

St. Joseph's Health Care Society

  • Corporate body
  • 1993-

In 1987, following the election of a completely new General Council of the Sisters of Joseph, hospital ownership and sponsorship were raised as key issues. The Society was formed in 1993 in response to a decision made by the Sisters to cease direct administration of the health care institutions founded by them in London, Sarnia and Chatham.
St. Joseph’s Health Care Society is a publicly funded, incorporated body which owns and operates three health care institutions formerly managed by the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Diocese of London, as well as two affiliated institutions. These are St. Joseph’s Health Care (London, Ont.), St. Stephen’s House (London, Ont.), St. Joseph’s Hospital (Chatham, Ont.), St. Joseph’s Hospice (Sarnia, Ont.), and St. Joseph’s Hospice (London, Ont.).
In London, the health care complex now known as St. Joseph’s Health Centre (originally St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital and Marian Villa), was administered by the Sisters until 1993. St. Stephen’s House, a transition home for alcoholics, was run by the Sisters until 2004. In Chatham, St. Joseph’s Hospital was administered by the Sisters until 1993, and since 1998 has been part of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance.

In January 1995, the Sisters donated their residence at 430 London Road to St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Sarnia to be used as a hospice. St. Joseph’s Hospice in London came under the direction of the St. Joseph’s Health Care Society whose expertise in operating the ten-bed hospice in Sarnia was integral to their involvement. A residential facility was opened in 2014.
The St. Joseph’s Health Care Society is governed by a volunteer board of directors. The Society approves the appointment of institutional board members, upper management, and auditors and annual audited financial statements.

The Society is responsible to:
• approve the appointment of board trustees who are committed to the mission and values of St. Joseph’s Health Care Society;
• ensure the provision by board members, staff, and administrators of health and pastoral care services to reflect Roman Catholic values; and
• foster the Catholic Church’s philosophy of health care through sponsorship of a health leadership program.

St. Joseph's Hospice

  • Corporate body
  • 2012-

Prior to the move to the current location on Windermere Road in London, Ontario, St. Joseph’s Hospice administration was located on Talbot Street. The building in which it was housed was known as the Great Talbot Street Estate, and had been purchased by the hospice in 2003. Therapeutic gardens and a memory walkway were part of the grounds. This location served as a resource centre, but did not provide residential care, while recognizing the need for it. St. Joseph’s Hospice came under the direction of the St. Joseph’s Health Care Society whose expertise in operating a ten bed hospice in Sarnia was integral to their involvement in the London hospice proposal.

On July 17, 2012, John Callaghan of the St. Joseph Health Care Society met with Sister Margo Ritchie, Congregational Leader and John Mockler, Business Administrator of the Sisters of St. Joseph. He was looking for property to purchase for the building of the first residential hospice in London. The Sisters did not have any property for sale. The meeting closed with the recognition that there were approximately 17 vacant suites at the Sisters’ residence at 485 Windermere Road. A casual comment was made that maybe they should create a hospice at this location. Sister Mary Diesbourg, Local Leader of the Sisters’ residence, was invited to join further conversation.

What began as a casual comment led to another meeting. This time, Peter Whatmore of CB Richard Ellis, the realtor searching for a site for the hospice, joined in the conversation. During this meeting, there were discussions about the pros and cons of housing the hospice in the Sisters’ residence. Those in attendance recognized that both Mr. Callaghan and the Sisters would need to consult with their respective constituents.

By August 2012, with the approval of the Congregational Leadership Team, the Sisters began an intense discernment process. They held a meeting with John Callaghan on August 22, 2012 at which time he was to bring responses to the many questions which the Sisters had.

The Congregational Leadership Team and other committee members were pro-active in learning more about hospice services, their potential impact on the day to day life of the Sisters in residence and also the capacity of St. Joseph’s Health Care Society to oversee St. Joseph’s Hospice.

The question and answer format became a very important part of the continuing dialogue between the Sisters and St. Joseph’s Hospice throughout the entire construction period. It was important at the beginning of the dialogue since it required the Sisters to consider and discuss the reality of sharing. This included use of gardens, recognition of the Sisters’ Horarium, entry and exit points, and the use of chapel and food services.

At the same time, another process was in motion. The Suites Committee - which had been formed in early 2012 to look for a short to medium term solution to the Sisters’ extra space issue - was first asked their opinion about a possible “partnering” with the hospice in two existing building wings, the East and North wings in the third floor of the residence. They had previously submitted a plan to the Leadership team in June 2012 that saw the Congregation housing guests, students and retreatants. The new idea of Hospice called the Sisters to rethink their plan regarding usage of space.

When the Leadership team agreed to look more seriously at the hospice idea, the first group with whom they consulted was the Suites Committee. Next, a small focus group of Sisters was involved in the discussion. Following these initial consultations to test the idea, the whole community at 485 Windermere Road met on several occasions to discuss the advantages and the disadvantages of partnering with the hospice in their home. The next step was to open the conversation to the whole Congregation. What they were really seeking was the movement of spirit in this communal decision. They looked at the long range actuarial of the community, the implications of sharing space and other possible uses of the space. The short time frame for decision-making was at first seen as an obstacle to good processing. In the end, the timeframe for decision-making was adequate.

Some considered the disruption to the life of the Sisters as an obstacle to having the hospice share the space in the Sisters’ residence. Often this comment came from Sisters living outside 485 Windermere out of concern for their friends. Some wondered if having people die on such a regular basis might further deplete the Sisters’ own sense of energy. Another concern was that they had moved into this new residence only six years prior, and the thought of renovating an almost brand new building seemed unimaginable.

In the end, after much discussion and the raising of all possible questions, the Sisters whole-heartedly endorsed inviting the hospice to share their space. Most compelling was the fact that they needed a long-term plan since they knew they could not administer another use of their empty space. Sisters felt that the hospice was in keeping with their charism. St. Joseph is the patron of the dying; and the Sisters have always wanted to be part of responding to an unmet need. In their history they saw a pattern of having people live with them from the earliest days at Mount Hope, when they shared their home with orphans and the elderly. The Sisters wanted to be part of creating something innovative in London. In short, the communal movement of spirit evoked a positive response to this venture.

On October 30, 2012, the Congregational Leadership Team wrote to John Callaghan expressing their whole-hearted support for this partnership. The hospice would become a tenant within their space. More significantly, both St. Joseph’s Hospice and the Sisters of St. Joseph knew that a possibility that was mutually beneficial had opened up before them.

In November 2012, the first official meeting of the representatives of the Sisters of St. Joseph and St. Joseph’s Hospice took place. In December 2012, there were three preliminary designs being considered for the new hospice, with the design by Alison Haney of Cornerstone Architects selected in early 2013. At the same time, Wendy Wilson was hired as the project manager for St. Joseph’s Hospice, and McKay Cocker Construction Ltd. was selected as the construction firm with Anita Verberk as the firm’s project manager. The two project managers worked closely together during construction. McKay Cocker Construction Ltd. also brought on board Pat Sullivan as the site superintendent. Initially, the proposed project completion date was set for October 2013 with an opening date for November 27th, 2013 and an open house on December 7th and 8th. It was anticipated that the hospice would receive their first resident by January 2014.

The construction firm did their site set-up in May 2013 to begin construction in June 2013, and kept to its schedule, but near the end of construction there were issues with parking and city zoning. There was an approximately 90 day wait for approval from the City which delayed the official opening.

As construction continued on the site, key personnel for the hospice were recruited. In May 2013, Dr. Joshua Shadd was hired as the hospice’s Medical Director with responsibilities in overseeing all clinical aspects of the hospice. In October 2013, the hospice hired Shirley Nieman as their Director of Residential Services and Julie Johnston as Executive Director.

Construction concluded on the ten-bed hospice in November 2013, with John Callaghan officially announcing to the Sisters on November 15th that construction was complete. The hospice administration moved from the Talbot Street location to the new location on December 6th and 7th of 2013. The hospice staff arrived on December 9th to unpack their office equipment. The move was undertaken by Campbell Bros. Moving. An official tour for the Sisters took place on December 16th, followed by the official opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on January 13th, 2014. The first resident was received on the morning of Thursday, February 20th, 2014.

St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing, Chatham, Ont.

  • Corporate body
  • 1901-1970

The St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing in Chatham dates back to 1901 when it was discovered that secular nurses would be needed to help out the Sisters of the Congregation in the hospitals. Doctors gave the lectures at the school. From 1903 onward, graduates could be given diplomas. Sister Monica Coyle became Directress of the School. The Alumnae Association of St. Joseph’s Hospital, which started in 1915, raised funds for the school. The last graduating class from the school was in 1970. After the closure of the nursing school, training was delivered by St. Clair College, and nurses did their practical training at both Chatham hospitals (St. Joseph's Hospital and Public General Hospital).

Stettler Hospital, Alta.

  • Corporate body
  • 1926-1927

In 1925, the Board of Trade passed a resolution that the leaders of Stettler should ask Archbishop Henry Joseph O'Leary to set up a "Sisters' Hospital" in Stettler, Alberta. In turn, the Archbishop sent for four sisters from the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Diocese of London to run the hospital: Sister Patricia Coughlin, Sister Virginia Lobban, Sister Austin Gurvine, and Sister Jane Francis O'Rourke. They arrived in March of 1926.

Due to religious factions in the community, soon after it was known that the Sisters would be running a hospital, another proposal was made to establish a public municipal hospital instead. Since the voting on this issue was dragged out, the Sisters went ahead and began work in a small existing hospital. Upon arrival, the Sisters cleaned the building and ordered new supplies because the hospital was in a poor state. The local parish was very supportive and a nearby cottage was rented for the purposes of storage and an oratory for the Sisters to celebrate mass and have community prayers.

Meanwhile, a vote was finally conducted but failed to pass. After the district boundaries were redrawn, another vote was held in favour of a municipal hospital. Also around this time, the hospital's cottage was burned down by opponents. Both these factors contributed to the Sisters closing the hospital and moving to Galahad where the Village of Galahad had asked them to establish a Sisters' Hospital.

Tertianship

  • Corporate body
  • 1958, 1960, 1963, 1966

The tertianship program delivered by the Sisters of St. Joseph of London was conducted in the summers of 1958, 1960, 1963 and 1966 at Holy Rosary Convent in Windsor, Ontario. The tertianship program was a month-long program and a Sister could only take part in it one time. The tertianship was an opportunity for professed Sisters to deepen their spiritual and religious vows through meditation, self-evaluation, reflection, and study. They also studied what Pope John XXIII had written in his encyclical on mercy. After Bishop Carter called a synod on Vatican II, tertianships ended. Mother Julia assumed leadership of the Sisters of St. Joseph of London five years prior to the Second Vatican Council, and was very involved in the tertianship process.

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