Our Federation Story
The first Canadian Federation meeting, 1966.
The Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Canada in 1851. Now,
more than 160 years later, we are three Congregations joined
together in a Federation, but this was not always so.
In 1650, in LePuy, France, Father Jean Pierre Médaille,
a Jesuit priest, gathered together six women to form a community
to respond to the needs of the poor.
From 1789-1794, during the French Revolution many of the
Sisters were imprisoned, some even guillotined. Many escaped
by taking refuge in their family homes.
Thirteen years later in 1807, Mother St. John Fontbonne,
one of the Sisters who had been imprisoned, was requested
by Cardinal Fesch, Archbishop of Lyon, to gather together
a community of former religious in his diocese. Through Mother
St. John and several other Sisters of St. Joseph, this new
Congregation maintained continuity with the first community
founded by Father Médaille.
The membership continued to grow and the Sisters quickly
set up houses throughout France, then into Europe and the
Sisters in North America
In 1836 six Sisters of St. Joseph settled in St. Louis,
Missouri in the United States. They worked among native and
black children, deaf children and new immigrants to the city.
A novitiate for the formation of new Sisters was established
and although the days were challenging with a new language,
harsh living conditions and financial need, the community
quickly grew in number.
The Sisters were soon asked to minister in Pennsylvania,
West Virginia, Ohio, and New York.
Responding to yet another invitation, four Sisters set out
from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and arrived in Toronto
in 1851. In a few short years, Congregations were established
in Hamilton (1852),
London (1868) and
(1890). Everywhere the Sisters went, they responded to the
needs of the day: caring for orphans, teaching children, nursing
In 1921, twenty-seven Sisters from Peterborough formed the
Congregation to fill the need for Catholic teachers in the
rural areas of the Ottawa Valley. Then in 1936, one hundred
more Sisters of the Peterborough Congregation who were serving
in Port Arthur and Fort William, present-day Thunder Bay,
and in missions throughout Northeastern Ontario were formed
into a separate Congregation for the Diocese of Sault
In early 2013, four of the six Canadian congregations (Hamilton, London, Peterborough
and Pembroke) amalgamated and formed a new congregation – The Congregation of the Sisters
of St. Joseph in Canada.
On September 20, 1966, the six separate Canadian Congregations:
Pembroke and Sault
Ste. Marie, formed the Canadian Federation. In early 2013, four of the six (Hamilton, London, Peterborough and Pembroke) joined together to form a new congregation – The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.
As a Federation the three Congregations are able to:
- deepen the awareness of a shared identity and mission;
- offer mutual support to each other;
- work together on common ministries and areas of concern.
The common purpose of the Canadian Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph is:
- to focus and empower our members
- in the passionate living of our mission of active and
Federations of the Sisters of St. Joseph are found also
in the United