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People and organizations
London

Community Communications

  • Corporate body
  • 1947-2014

The newsletters in this series were produced as a way of communicating to Sisters living in the Motherhouse and also in convents in the places in which they were missioned. Before email communication became more common, the physical newsletters were the primary source for congregational news. The various newsletters have different authors. Three authors of note are General Superiors Mother Margaret Coughlin (1947-1959), Mother Julia Moore (1959-1971), and Sister Katherine McKeough (1979-1987).
Mother Margaret Coughlin had a significant impact on the congregation particularly with regard to community projects. During her tenure, the St Mary’s Hospital building project was completed, Catholic Central High School was opened, new Constitutions were approved, and sod was turned for a new Motherhouse at Mount St. Joseph. In addition, various new homes and missions were established for Sisters.

Mother Julia Moore was a great leader in the congregation. She was highly educated, and served as a teacher before assuming leadership of the Sisters of St. Joseph of London. The Sisters recognized Mother Julia as a true mystic who led the Congregation through the Second Vatican Council. After her time as General Superior, Mother Julia served as a general councillor, health care coordinator of the community, and finally as Superior at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Sister Katherine McKeough trained as a nurse and spent most of her life in hospital ministry. She eventually obtained a Masters of Science in Adult Psychology at Boston University, which enabled her to be a clinical supervisor in psychiatry. She held various positions at St. Joseph’s Hospital and served on various associations and committees related to health and religious life. As General Superior, Sister Katherine is remembered for her unconditional acceptance of others and belief in people’s goodness. After her term as General Superior, Sister Katherine worked to improve the situation of homeless women.

Fontbonne Hall

  • Corporate body
  • 1953-1967

Fontbonne Hall, located at 534 Queens Avenue in London, Ontario, was a residence for the Sisters of St. Joseph from May 1951 to September 1953. The building, which was built by William Spencer in 1856 and had previously served as a former Knights of Columbus residence, was purchased to provide more room for the Sisters who had been living at Sacred Heart. On September 11, 1953, all children were transferred from Mount St. Joseph Orphanage to Fontbonne Hall due to changes in government policy that required improved boarding care. A total of 41 children were moved. As a result of this policy change, children under the age of two were placed back with the agency that had referred them. The building was officially opened on December 20, 1953. Fontbonne Hall was more like a foster home than an orphanage, as the new government policies required. In addition, the Sisters operated a Day Nursery School at this location which was licensed from 1954 until 1965 for the children of working families.

In 1963, the decision was made to change Fontbonne Hall’s focus to care for emotionally disturbed children in order to fulfill a growing community need. In June 1965, the Fontbonne Hall Board disbanded and in October 1965, the orphanage came under the direction of Madame Vanier Children’s Services which operated under the Catholic Charities. In June of 1967, the Sisters of St. Joseph withdrew. In 1968, Fontbonne Hall became the first private treatment centre licensed in the province of Ontario under the children’s mental health services legislation. In June of 1972, the contract at Fontbonne Hall was terminated, but the residents of Madame Vanier Children’s Services were allowed to stay until their new quarters were ready. On August 4, 1972, the new facility located at 871 Trafalgar Street was opened for the children’s care, and Fontbonne Hall was closed. The building at 534 Queens Avenue was reopened by the Sisters of St. Joseph under a new program called Internos, which served as a group home for teenage girls.

Hartleib, Sister Mary Anthony

  • Person
  • February 10, 1924- June 23, 2008

Sister Mary Anthony Hartleib (nee Mary Anne Lenore) was born in Stratford, Ontario on February 10, 1924. She was the daughter of Charles Henry Hartleib and Loretta Durand. Her stepmother was Mary Hartleib of Waterloo, Ontario. Mary Anne Lenore Hartleib joined the congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of London, Ontario and received the habit on July 2, 1965. She made her first vows on July 2, 1966 and her final vows on May 30, 1971 in the Chapel at Mount St. Joseph. She was given the religious name Sister Mary Anthony. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in art and theology at the University of Windsor in 1969, and then studied at Althouse College in London, Ontario. Sister Mary Anthony received a permanent teaching certificate in 1972, a supervisor’s certificate in art, and a teaching certificate in art and English. From 1970 until 1981, she supervised the art department at Mount St. Joseph Academy in London. She was appointed assistant bursar at Mount St. Joseph, but continued with art and the teaching of ceramics until 1985 when her art work took a new turn. Always interested in the spiritual, Sister Mary Anthony turned to iconography. She spent two years studying Chinese water colour painting, followed by three years of iconography. She was a scholar, a skilled teacher of art, and a passionate advocate of the way icons open the mystery of the sacred. Sister Mary Anthony became well known as an iconographer and maintained a studio in the Sisters’ residence after Mount St. Joseph Academy closed. For several years, she shared her knowledge of iconography with the seminarians at St. Peter’s Seminary in London. The community of the Sisters of St. Joseph moved to 485 Windermere Road in 2007, where Sister Mary Anthony occupied her own art studio. Three of her icons, including that of the Blessed Trinity, were placed in the Chapel at the new residence. After a very short illness, Sister Mary Anthony died in the care centre at the Sisters’ Residence on June 23, 2008. Her funeral Mass of Resurrection was celebrated in St. Joseph Chapel in the residence at 485 Windermere Road. Father Frank O’Connor of St. Peter’s Seminary was the main celebrant. Sister Mary Anthony was buried in St. Peter’s cemetery in London.

Gagner, Sister Eveline

  • Person
  • 1917-2020

Sister Eveline Gagner was born in Chatham, Ontario on July 3, 1917. She was one of five children born to Dieudonne Gagner of Tilbury, Ontario and Marie Helene Caron of Dover Township, Kent County, Ontario. Her sister, Viola Marie Blanche, also entered the Congregation, and was given the religious name Yvonne.

Sister Eveline received her B.A. from Assumption University, Windsor in 1963, and her M.A. in Theology from the University of Windsor in 1972. She received a diploma from Lumen Vitae in Brussels. Following this, she received the Attestation d’Etudes: Recherche en Catéchèse from the University of Montreal in 1967. Three years later, in 1970, she received her Attestation d’Etudes: Perfectionnement en Religion from the University of Sherbrooke. Sister Eveline attended the EXODUS program in St. Louis Missouri, during a sabbatical period in 1988.

As well as her academic training, Sister Eveline holds her permanent teaching certificates for French and English. She taught from 1939 to 1979 in separate schools in Ontario, in London, Windsor, Belle River and Sarnia, and held positions as principal as well during this time. From 1969 to 1973, she served as the religion consultant for the Roman Catholic Separate School Board in Windsor, Ontario. From 1979 to 1982 Sister Eveline worked in the field of adult faith education as a catechist in the Stratford Deanery, followed by pastoral ministry at St. Andrew’s Parish in London from 1982 to 1988. Sister Eveline served as a volunteer in various capacities, including as a hospital visitor and ministering to the poor.

Ferris, Sister Margaret

  • Person
  • May 25, 1931-November 12, 2017

Born Mary Margaret Ferris in London in 1931, Sister Margaret Ferris was a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who has spent much of her life furthering her education and ministry. In particular, she has been a reformer and innovator of prayer, community involvement, and spiritual direction at the Congregation. She also published a book titled Compassioning: Basic Counselling Skills for Christian Caregivers in 1993, and various articles pertaining to spiritual direction and community living and involvement.

Sister Margaret Ferris was involved in her local parish at an early age and was especially encouraged in her faith by her grandmother, who lived with the Ferris family. At a young age she began to consider entering religious life. She completed upper school at St. Angela’s College in 1950 and graduated in the first class to ever graduate from Catholic Central High School in 1951. At age twenty-two, after working as a legal secretary, she joined the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. After the completion of her novitiate, she attended the University of Western Ontario where she completed her B.A. in 1959, and Master’s degree in Education in 1977. In 1959, she began her teaching career as a high school teacher.

She continued to advance in her career in the 1960s. She became vice-principal of St. Patrick’s High School in Sarnia in 1963, and then principal of Mount St. Joseph Academy in 1966. During the 1960s, she continued to further her own education. She studied during the summer months at the University of Notre Dame. There she received a Master’s degree in Science in 1968. She also became a leader of spiritual renewal at the Congregation, which resulted in a strengthening of her own prayer life.

In 1972, she resigned as principal of Mount St. Joseph Academy, and with three other Sisters, established Internos, a home for troubled teenage girls, who experienced family difficulties or substance abuse. Her ministry evolved as she became exposed to, and involved in family and community life. In 1977, she became Director of the Congregation’s Medaille Retreat House. During this time, she was also completing her Master’s degree in Counselling at the University of Western Ontario part-time. During this time, she continued to broaden her experience and understanding of spiritual direction and contemplative spirituality.

In 1978, she was elected to the Congregation’s General Council while still maintaining her position at the Retreat House where she worked alongside individuals of other Christian denominations. In 1984, she studied for a year at the Institute for Creation-Centred Spirituality in California where she obtained a Master’s degree in Spirituality and Culture. She marks this as the richest experience of community in her life, which strengthened and broadened her own spiritual understanding and life.

When she returned to London in 1985, she was asked to join St. Peter’s Seminary as a faculty member in the positions of teacher, counsellor, and Formation Director for Lay Ministry. This was another fulfilling experience for Sister Margaret Ferris as she was able to influence the development of the Church and to give empowerment/influence to the laity. She held this position for over ten years. In 1992 she obtained her Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Direction at the Graduate Theological Foundation, and in 2007 she received an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from the same institution.

Sister Margaret Ferris also dedicated a portion of her life to travelling. From 1959-1963, she made various trips around Ontario and northern U.S.A. In 1981, she travelled to Peru and Florida. In 1990, she and other Sisters visited Rome where she also met Pope John Paul II and received a rosary from him. In 2003, she made a pilgrimage to Le Puy, France, from where the Sisters of St. Joseph originally came. In 2004, she was honoured as one of the seven Golden Jubilarians in the Congregation.

Kuntz, Sister Mary Lillian

  • Person
  • December 30, 1935-October 23, 2015

Mary Lillian Kuntz was born in London, Ontario on December 30, 1935. She was the daughter of Edward J. Kuntz and Margaret H. Ward.

Mary Lillian attended St. Angela’s School in London from 1949-1950, and then Catholic Central High School in London from 1950-1953. She entered the Congregation on July 2, 1953 and received the habit and her religious name Dolores on January 3, 1954. She took her first vows on January 3, 1956 and her final vows on January 3, 1961. Sister Mary Lillian trained at London Teachers’ College from 1956-1957. Later, she attended the University of Windsor, obtaining her B.A. in 1965. This was followed by the completion of an M.A. in Educational Administration from Columbia University in New York in 1976. Almost a decade later, she completed a B.A. and J.C.L. in Canon Law from the University of Ottawa in 1985.

Sister Mary Lillian served as a teacher and principal in London from 1957-1972. She spent the summer of 1969 in Uganda, teaching mathematics to teachers. She then moved to Yellowknife, where she was principal at St. Patrick’s High School until 1977. During her time in the north, she also served as a bursar for the local religious community. She returned to London, and taught high school mathematics from 1978-1981. She then worked as an administrator at the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse from 1981-1983.

Following this, Sister Mary Lillian studied canon law in Ottawa from 1983-1985, and then received several canonical appointments. She was the Associate Judge and substitute Defender of the Bond for the Vancouver Regional Tribunal, working through the Nelson, B.C. office in 1984. She then served as Judge and Defender of the Bond for the Nelson Marriage Tribunal after it became a distinct Diocesan Tribunal in 1985. She was appointed to the Disability Pension Committee for the Diocese of Nelson in 1985. In 1987, she was appointed Judge, Auditor and Notary on the Marriage Tribunal in Nelson. She held this position until 1993, when she also became the Director of the Marriage Tribunal. In 1996, she became the Director of the Nelson-Kamloops Interdiocesan Tribunal, still serving as a Judge and Auditor.

Sister Mary Lillian held other positions of service, including on the Diocesan Synod Steering Committee, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Diocesan Sexual Abuse Committee, and the Cathedral Liturgy Committee. She was the treasurer for the Sisters’ Council in the Diocese of Nelson. Sister Mary Lillian was also a world traveller.

Sister Mary Lillian died on October 23, 2015 in London Ontario and is buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery, in the same city.

Kirwin, Sister Mary Leo

  • Person
  • January 7, 1922-November 26, 2015

Sister Mary Leo Kirwin was born Mary Margaret Kirwin in Ingersoll, Ontario on January 7, 1922 to Leo Joseph Kirwin and Mae Henesey. Mary attended Sacred Heart School from 1936-1940 and Ingersoll Collegiate Institute from 1940-1942. She then completed her teacher training at London Normal School from 1941-1942. After earning her teaching certificate, she spent the summer of 1942 working in a munitions factory, but began teaching in September of that year. Her teaching career began at RCSS #2 in Clinton, Ontario. She then taught at Sacred Heart School in Ingersoll from 1944-1946, and later moved to St. Mary’s School from 1946-1947. On July 2, 1947, Mary Kirwin entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph and received the habit. She took the name Sister Mary Leo on January 3, 1948, and made her first vows on January 3, 1950. She took her final vows on January 3, 1953.

Sr. Mary Leo Kirwin worked as a teacher from 1950-1953 at the Holy Rosary School in London, Ontario. From 1953-1957, she served at this school as the principal. She moved to Simcoe to be a teacher and principal at St. Mary’s Catholic School from 1957-1961. During this time, Sr. Mary Leo also attended the University of Western Ontario and obtained her B.A. in 1958. From 1961-1965, she taught at St. Louis School, Riverside in Windsor. She remained in Windsor from 1965 to 1967, where she taught at F.J. Brennan Catholic High School. She then returned to London and became a teacher and head of the home economics department at Mount St. Joseph Academy from 1969-1983. While she was teaching in London, she graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honours Specialist in Home Economics in 1980.

In 1983, Sr. Mary Leo was called to move to Edmonton to serve as the General Superior of St. Joseph’s Convent and act as coordinator of Western Houses, a role in which she served until 1989. While living at the Edmonton Regional House in 1987, Sister Mary Leo became involved with the People In Need Shelter Society during a housing crisis. Along with Sister Alice Caswell and Sister Olga Barilko, she worked with disabled people. She also worked with the poor alongside Sister Esther Lucier. Her involvement grew and eventually the Society named a house for homeless men and women after her (the Kirwin Lucier House). From 1989-1991, she took up a new role at Elizabeth Place, a home for needy women in Edmonton. She was also involved with the Elizabeth Fry Society where she worked with prison women doing handiwork and visiting. In 1991, she returned to London, where she served as the general treasurer at Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse until 1998. In addition, she was on the local leadership council. Although she retired in 1998, Sr. Mary Leo Kirwin still provided relief for Sr. Veronica Cooke at Elaine Lucas Place from 1999-2001. The Elaine Lucas Place in London is a 45 bed residence for the homeless on Little Simcoe Street with which Sr. Mary Leo Kirwin was affiliated.

Sr. Mary Leo was involved in many committees throughout her life, including the Elizabeth Fry Society in Edmonton, L.I.F.T. Housing in London, and the Congregational bursary, donations, and strategic planning committees. She was also a community representative on the Red Cross Board.

One of her lasting contributions was her work with a low-income housing organization in Edmonton, the Edmonton Inner City Housing Society. The society opened its first project, a five-bedroom house in the McCauley neighbourhood and 30 years later, the year Sr. Mary Leo died, the same Edmonton Inner City Housing Society had grown to the point where it owned and managed more than 20 housing developments. These houses provided shelter for individuals and families, and supported 500 people in 300 housing units in inner city neighbourhoods.

Sr. Mary Leo also, as a result of visiting at Edmonton Women’s Prison, saw the need for post-incarceration housing for women. The Congregation bought a house, known as Elizabeth House, with a Sister serving as housemother. Later, they purchased another house called Tess’s House, with Sister Theresa Carmel Slavik serving as housemother for at risk young adults.

The Kirwin-Lucier House, which opened in 1993 in Edmonton, is a housing project of the Edmonton People in Need Shelter Society and provides a home for people with chronic mental disorders or substance abuse. It was named after Sisters Mary Leo Kirwin and Esther Lucier for their contributions to the society and its clients.

Sister Mary Leo was an expert at needlework, sewing of all kinds, quilting, upholstery, caning, and gardening. In 1976, her students at Mount St. Joseph Academy made an Olympic quilt which was presented to Prime Minister Trudeau. She continued making at least two quilts each year with a friend from the low cost housing development in London, until her death.

Sr. Mary Leo died November 26, 2015 in London, Ontario and is buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery in London, Ontario.

Luney, Dr. F. W.

  • Person
  • 1892-1987

Frederick Winnett (F. W.) Luney was the oldest child of Isabella and James S. Luney, born in 1892 in Middlesex, Ontario. He had three younger brothers: Oswald S., Russell H., and Willford R. In 1914, Luney graduated from the medical program at the University of Western Ontario. On May 12, 1916, he enlisted with the Canadian military in the Army Medical Services division, where he held the position of Lieutenant. Dr. Luney served as an intern at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario, where he was appointed Senior Pathologist in 1917, a position he held until 1927. He was also appointed to the Institute of Public Health (London, Ontario) in the Division of Pathology and Bacteriology. On June 29, 1918, he married Cora E. Spettigue in London, Ontario. In 1927, Dr. Luney began work at St. Joseph’s Hospital (London, Ontario) as Director of Laboratories. In 1928, he established the Clinical Pathology Laboratory, known later as the Department of Laboratory Medicine (from 1960 to 1986). Dr. Luney was Secretary of the St. Joseph’s Hospital Nominating Committee from 1928 to 1930. From 1929 to 1961, he held the position of Clinical Laboratory Chief. Through experimentation on animals, Dr. Luney made great advances in blood transfusion techniques, and even pioneered a new blood transfusion apparatus, a “two-person multiple syringe” that allowed blood to flow directly from donor to patient. On March 19, 1945, Dr. Luney directed the opening of the Blood Bank Department at St. Joseph’s Hospital. He placed Sr. Leonarda Kelly, R. T. in charge of the department. Between 1941 and 1942, Dr. Luney was appointed the fourth President of the Ontario Association of Pathologists, a non-profit medical society committed to representing patients and pathologists, and promoting excellence in the practice of pathology. During his tenure at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Dr. Luney was a member of the First Library Committee (1931), Chief of Staff (1941-1943, 1952-1954), and a founding member of the Historical Committee (1950). He retired in 1961, after 34 years of medical service. In 1970, Dr. Luney established the Dr. F. W. Luney Fund, donating $5,000 for the purchase of supplies for the St. Joseph’s Hospital Medical Library. In addition to his work at both Victoria and St. Joseph’s, Dr. Luney established private pathology consulting services to smaller medical centres in St. Thomas (Ont.), Tillsonburg (Ont.), Chatham (Ont.), Sarnia (Ont.), and Brantford (Ont.). He was also an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario for 44 years. Dr. Luney died on February, 1987.

Workshops and Events

  • Corporate body
  • September 1953- December 2006

The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in London has been around since the 19th century. The longevity of the organization has seen many members both formerly and currently working with the diocese to spread the word of God and the community involvement of the Sisters that represent the Congregation. Anniversaries have come and gone which continue to build on the legacy of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Workshops and events focused around celebrations, reunions and festivals usually accompanied a major accomplishment or transition within the Congregation and helped to memorialize the progress of the Sisters that make up the diocese in Canada. The workshops and events sometimes were also arranged around missioning ceremonies like a send off or return of a Sister from another country to spread the word of God and the Congregations community involvement. Workshops range from educational to creative and encourage positivity.

The Hope Project

  • Corporate body
  • 2009-2010

The Hope Project ran from 2009-2010 in London, with the first meeting about the project in March, 2009. It was funded by a donation from the Congregation, and provided grants of between $20 and $200 to people with ideas to bring hope to their communities. The project was run by Sr. Catherine Stafford and Helene Diesbourg and was based on a similar project run by Sr. Catherine in Edmonton in 1995-1996. The project in Edmonton was sponsored by the Hope Foundation and involved the administration of small grants ($20-$100) to be used to spread hope. A project was also run by Sr. Yvonne Parent in Windsor. The Windsor project started in 2009 with a grant of $10,000 from the Congregation, which was disbursed in 2010. Funds were requested for 2011and $2,000 was received from the Congregation, with instructions to seek funding from four business partners. It was not possible to find partners, and so the Windsor project came to an end.

In London, Sister Catherine and Helene visited with contact people at local agencies who recommended applicants who then took part in the application process. The local agencies received the applications. Some of these agencies had strong connections to the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The agencies included Cross Cultural Learner Centre, My Sister’s Place, and St. Joseph’s Hospitality Centre. My Sister’s Place, originally Home for Women in Need, was run by the Sisters. The Cross Cultural Learner Centre is connected to the Congregation through the Sisters’ donation of the Refugee House behind the St. Joseph’s Hospitality Centre. The Hospitality Centre is a soup kitchen run by the Sisters. Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre, Crouch Community Resource Centre, and the London Intercommunity Health Centre were other agencies which accepted applications for the Hope Project.

Over the course of The Hope Project in London there were 50 funding requests, with total project expenditures of $7,455. The types of projects that were funded included supporting the purchase of YMCA memberships, musical instruments, pet care, health or dental care, and household supplies.

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.

St. Mary's Hospital, London, Ont.

  • Corporate body
  • 1951-1985

The Sisters of St. Joseph built St. Mary’s Hospital at 200 Grosvenor Street in 1951. It received its first 35 patients on April 3, 1951 from the House of Providence. It was created to serve the special medical and nursing needs of the chronically ill. The Sisters assigned to St. Mary’s Hospital in 1951 were: Sr. Patrick Joseph as Superior; Sr. Leonora Doyle as Superintendent of the Hospital; Sisters: Irene Redmond, Austin Gurvine, Christina Dewan, Alberta Kenny, Lutgarde Stock, Bernandine Boyle, St. Matthew McMurray, Gervase Martin, Roseanne Sheehan, Ludmille (Isabel) Girard, Carmela Reedy, Justina Mahoney, Vincent de Paul Cronin, Genevieve Anne Cloutier, Dolores Sullivan. Its physiotherapy department was especially well-known for its efficiency, modern equipment, and well trained staff.

Many patients at St. Mary’s were there for long-term care and were encouraged to make the hospital their home. Some of the programs that facilitated this were the Patients’ Council, a patient newspaper called Between Friends, and fund-raising events for charities and the hospital. The hospital’s budget was often strained. In 1959, the Ontario Hospital Commission Insurance was created which provided welcome financial relief for many hospitals, including St. Mary’s. It was difficult for administrative and medical staff to adjust with extra patient evaluations and paperwork required to qualify for insurance.

In 1960, the hospital re-organized its staff in preparation for the Canadian Council Accreditation Survey which the hospital passed. The hospital maintained its accreditation over the years despite inadequate facilities which were addressed in 1979-1981 with a large building project. The old laundry and what remained of the Mount Hope Chapel were demolished to make way for a new chapel, laundry, and kitchen which connected the hospital with the neighbouring Marian Villa. In 1979, the Pastoral Department was created at the hospital. A Sister or priest worked part-time to co-ordinate the Sisters who volunteered for pastoral visits to patients.

In 1985, St. Mary’s Hospital merged with St.Joseph’s Hospital and Marian Villa to become St. Joseph’s Health Centre. In 1986, rehabilitation services were added at St. Mary’s Hospital for acute injuries, amputees, neurological, orthopaedic, and chronic pain. In 1997, it became part of the Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care.

St. Joseph's School of Music

  • Corporate body
  • 1914-1982

The Sisters of St. Joseph have a long history of music instruction. The St. Joseph’s School of Music traces its beginnings back a century ago to 1914, when the Sisters of St. Joseph first took up residence at Sacred Heart Convent in London, Ontario, and began formal music instruction, due to the initiative taken by Sister Ursula McGuire and Sister Patricia Mallon. The school's earliest known music recital took place in 1919; however, it wasn't until the early 1920s that the school was established as the Sacred Heart School of Music. The music ministry has an even longer history, though, as individual Sisters were actually offering music lessons in small mission houses and schools throughout Ontario as early as 1867.

In the early days of the Sisters’ music ministry and the Sacred Heart School of Music, music studios were established in a number of schools within the London Separate School Board, and Sisters would visit the schools once or twice a week to teach. These schools included St. Michael, St. Martin, Holy Cross, Holy Rosary, Blessed Sacrament and St. Peter’s Catholic Schools. By 1929, the music ministry had 27 music teachers, and the Sisters offered music instruction in Windsor, Belle River, Leamington, Goderich, St. Mary’s, Ingersoll, Woodstock and St. Thomas in Ontario, as well as in Edmonton, Alberta. That year, Sister Callistus Arnsby was appointed Community Music Supervisor and Principal of the Sacred Heart School of Music. She was responsible for creating uniformity in policies and structure throughout the schools, and for helping the Sisters to grow professionally.

The Sacred Heart School of Music’s instructors studied and were trained themselves at the London Conservatory of Music (1892-1922), which later became the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music (1934-1997). Some of the Sisters also received special instruction in violin and piano teaching from a well-known musician of the time, Mr. St. John Hyttenruck.

The Sisters originally taught a program of studies based on the examination requirements of the Toronto Conservatory of Music (now the Royal Conservatory of Music). Students could take annual examinations, with examiners from the conservatory coming to the school for the exams. However, when the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music was established in London in 1934, the Sacred Heart School of Music began following its courses and requirements instead.

As the years went on, the Sacred Heart School of Music continued to grow. School policies were instituted, student recitals took place regularly, scholarships and awards were established, and bi-annual report cards were issued to students. There was even a music library. In the 1940s, the Sacred Heart Concert Orchestra was formed by Sister Immaculata Brophy. Originally a string ensemble, the orchestra eventually expanded to include wind, bass and percussion instruments. The Sacred Heart Concert Orchestra played frequently at important civic and religious events, and gave annual concerts in London and other nearby cities until the late 1940s when it disbanded.

When the new Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse opened in 1954, the music school was relocated there and its name was changed to the St. Joseph School of Music. The new St. Joseph School of Music contained larger, modern facilities, including St. Cecilia’s Recital Hall and adjoining music studios for teaching and practice. However, some of the school’s original studios were still retained, such as the studio at 429 Colborne St., a small house across the street from the Sacred Heart Convent, which continued to be used for teaching until 1973.

In addition to piano and violin instruction, the Sisters also offered vocal instruction. In fact, Sister Mary Margaret Childs organized several choirs over the years, including a senior girls’ choir called the School of Christ Choristers and a junior choir called the Little Radio Choir. In 1963, she formed a choir of her own senior vocal students called the St. Cecilia Singers who sang a repertoire of sacred songs, folk songs, popular songs, plain chant and carols. The St. Cecilia Singers made quite a name for themselves, touring throughout Canada and the United States and winning many awards at Rotary and Kiwanis Music Festivals. The choir is still in existence today as part of the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University. By 1972, the St. Joseph’s School of Music had an enrolment of approximately 400 students, and lessons were offered in piano, violin, singing and music theory. At this point the school had 30 teachers, seven of whom were Sisters.

In September 1982, the St. Joseph's School of Music was amalgamated with the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music on the University of Western Ontario campus. The St. Joseph's School of Music programs continued, its teachers were invited to join the conservatory staff, and its students were able to continue with their same teachers. By 1993, only three Sisters remained teaching at the conservatory. Shortly thereafter, the three Sisters began teaching independently again, offering independent instruction at the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse. Today, in 2014, Sister Caroline Bering is the sole Sister still offering music instruction, with one student under her tuition.

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).

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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