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Are you hearing
God's call?

Risk Takers Then ...

Celebrating the Beginning of 150 Years of Sisters of Providence in the West

Opening Celebration
December 8, 2005

OPENING SONG: I Rejoiced When I Heard Them Say by J. Gelineau, SJ
- Psalm 122 © Gregorian Institute 1956

WELCOME: Today we open the 150th Anniversary Year celebrating the Sisters of Providence coming to the West. On December 8, 1856, feast of the Immaculate Conception, a small group of five Sisters of Providence, led by Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart and including two postulants, arrived at Fort Vancouver in the Oregon Territory. These women of Providence incarnated through their lives and ministries Godís Provident love, care and concern in the world. Even in the face of "not enough" they let the Spirit move them to give from the little they had for the good of others.

We also celebrate today the many sisters, associates, friends, family members, co-workers and collaborators who have responded to the call of Providence in their lives throughout these 150 years. Let us listen to a proclamation of the beginning of this story.

READER 1: Risk Takers Then ... How a small, new Community of Providence Sisters in Montreal, Canada, came to send a second group of sisters to the missionary land of the Oregon Territory: (adapted from The Bell and The River by Sister Mary of the Blessed Sacrament McCrosson and The History of The Institute, Volume 5)

Bishop Augustine Magloire Alexander Blanchet felt quite free to remind Bishop Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, and Mother Caron, Superior of the Sisters of Providence, of their promise concerning the foundation of a house of charity in the diocese of Nesqually in the Oregon Territory. Obstacles arose, however, to thwart his designs. The Sisters of Providence had been established as a Community only a short thirteen years before. As recently as 1853, Sisters of Providence, including Sister Bernarda Morin, had been sent to the West. But in the mysterious ways of Godís Providence these sisters were now serving in Chile.

The young Community was very short of personnel.

On the third day of October 1856, the Council of the Sisters of Providence at the Mother House in Montreal took note of the document of request which Bishop Blanchet had presented to Mother Caron. After much deliberation, the Councilors unanimously agreed to accept a mission at Fort Vancouver. Sister Joseph was immediately named as Superior for this new foundation. The Leadership Council sought to identify other missionary companions to join her. All were eager to follow the well loved Sister Joseph to the distant designated mission.

The Leadership of the Community met seven times and were still unable to decide who to send with Sister Joseph because of the needs of existing ministries in Montreal City and the surrounding areas. After further prayer, Mother Caron proposed the following as companions for Sister Joseph: Sister Praxedes, the current superior at St. John of God which was one of their largest ministries, and Sister Blandine, who was just eighteen years of age and three months professed. To complete the required number two women, who desired to become Sisters of Providence and to dedicate their lives to the missions, would be admitted as postulants. They were Miss Adelaide Theriault, age thirty, and Miss Mary Ellen Norton, age eighteen. Bishop Blanchet accepted this arrangement and the Council made its decision accordingly on the twenty-sixth day of October, 1856.


On this feast of Maryís conception let us pray:
Provident God, your love filled Maryís being from the first moment of her conception with a faith that your Spirit prepared and a love that never held back. Trace in our hearts her readiness of faith and in our lives her compassionate love. In your generosity, prepare us so that every day we will manifest your Providence in our readiness to risk all in faith and love that does not hold back. We ask this through Jesus, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


READER 2: Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.

READER 3: Risk takers - three professed sisters and two postulants join Bishop Blanchetís group leaving Eastern Canada for the missionary land of the Pacific Northwest.
(adapted from The Bell and The River by Sister Mary of the Blessed Sacrament McCrosson and The History of The Institute, Volume 5)

On Monday morning, November 3, 1856, the day the missionaries would leave Canada, Bishop Blanchet celebrated mass while it was yet dark. Behind the travelers lay the world they knew: Montreal, the bastion of the faith, built two hundred years ago by their sturdy forefathers and mothers. Before them lay the Saint Lawrence River, and beyond the river that strange, indeterminate world for which they had yearned as the object of their Christian zeal; a world now suddenly monstrous and obscure in the morning fog and frightening as a vast unknown wilderness.

It was early Monday morning, December 8th, the second anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, when they drew close to their destination. However, they had first that day to face the fright of crossing the bar into the Columbia River. This was one of the most difficult passages in the world, dreaded by every mariner who approached. In the thick, gray morning light there was little to see except occasional glimpses of distant headlands to the north and south of them and directly ahead, the heaving sea and a long line of breakers which formed and hurtled and broke and formed again in interminable, frothing fury. The swells increased and the ship rolled and pitched; yet it inched forward length by length feeling for the channel. Then the chant of the leadsman up ahead became less a moan and more a cocky triumph. Suddenly the ship was idling in clear green water and a river bank seemed near enough to touch. After smoother sailing down the river, port was reached and at three oíclock on the afternoon of December 8th, Bishop Blanchet and his community landed in the Oregon Territory at Fort Vancouver. Father Brouillet, Vicar General, was waiting at the wharf for the Bishop, eager to welcome him. As to the Sisters, he greeted them with a look of surprise, as he had not been informed of their coming with the Bishop.

Mother Joseph asked the Blessed Virgin to bless the country now becoming her field of action. In this intention, she dropped a medal of the Immaculate Conception beside the path. While walking to the Bishopric, she heard Father Brouillet saying to the Bishop in a low tone: "Where are we going to put the Sisters?" Mother Joseph knew that the Bishop was poor; yet she was surprised to find that the Bishopís residence was not but a frame house divided into four small rooms with a narrow hall leading to a lean-to for the kitchen and the cook. The only unused space was a room under the roof!

On entering the Bishopís house, the Sisters said the Te Deum with joyful hearts. They were taken into the parlor which also served as a room for Father Brouillet. There, before a picture of the Blessed Virgin, they recited the Act of Consecration to Mary, just as it was recited at the Mother House in Montreal on that day, December 8, 1856. They particularly thanked God for their escape from the perils that had threatened them during their sea voyage.

At the request of Bishop Blanchet, the Vicar General and Father Rossi went throughout Fort Vancouver in search of a house for the Sisters. There was no convent prepared for them. After seeking in vain for a house, Fathers Brouillet and Rossi returned to report to the Bishop. The men asked among themselves, "What is to be done?" The Bishopís secretary replied that there was a small room in the attic. The Bishop asked Mother Joseph, "Perhaps you could fix up that small room in the top of my house." It was then and there agreed that our five sisters would take the room in question until another could be found. After a good nightís rest, they happily rose the next day and joined the Bishop in celebrating three masses in honor of their new beginnings as missionaries to the peoples in the West, particularly to those most in need.

GOSPEL: Luke 1:26-36. Annunciation

REFLECT/SHARE: Let us ponder the following questions, then at the sound of a bell share with one or two others.
  • How do these readings touch my life today?
  • How might I better understand my own life journey in light of what I have heard about Godís Providence?

INTERCESSIONS: Let us praise the Holy Spirit who inspired Mary and throughout the centuries has inspired the faithful to respond to persons in need. Our response will be: Lead us in the way of Providence.

L: O God, be praised in Mary, mother of good counsel; form us to be discerning people.
(R) Lead us in the way of Providence.

L: O God, be praised through Mary, help of Christians; help us all to proclaim the gospel with our lives.
(R) Lead us in the way of Providence.

L: O God, be praised in Mary, comforter of the afflicted; teach us to be a healing presence in the lives of others.
(R) Lead us in the way of Providence.

L: O God, be praised in Mary, patroness of the Americas; teach us to stand with the poor and the oppressed and to work for a just and compassionate earth community.
(R) Lead us in the way of Providence.

L: O God, be praised in Mary, queen of peace; give us forgiving hearts and bless our world with the peace that only you can give.
(R) Lead us in the way of Providence.

OFFERTORY HYMN: Mary, Woman of the Promise by D. Boughton

COMMUNION HYMN: O Mary of Promise by Steven C. Warner or Maryís Song (Magnificat) by Millie Rieth

CLOSING ANNOUNCEMENT: All of us here today are invited to unite in asking the Holy Spirit to build up the family of "Providence Risk Takers" by praying daily the Act of Consecration to Mary, the prayer the Sisters prayed on that first day at Fort Vancouver. You will be given a copy of this prayer when you leave today.

CLOSING SONG: Hymn to Divine Providence

Recited by the Sisters of Providence upon their arrival at the Bishopís house at Fort Vancouver, December 8, 1856

Holy Mary, first disciple of Jesus
and Mother of the Church,
we come to you to acknowledge your place in God's plan,
and, in a particular way, in the grace of our vocation.

Deeply touched by your strength in sorrow,
called as we are to minister to your Son,
to assist at his death in the persons of the poor and afflicted, we have a great need to share
in your motherly tenderness.

Please, then, communicate to us your tender compassion
for all the spiritual and corporal sufferings
of the children you birthed at the foot of the cross.

Please look upon us as your daughters and sons
willing to share your sorrows. Please receive us
into your loving heart, that heart pierced with seven swords of sorrow. We wish to love that heart so good.

You know the difficulties we encounter in our mission
of love. O, Compassionate Mother of All,
be with us in the midst of human pain and darkness.

As a grateful acknowledgement of all you share and do,
we will do our best to love and care for Christ in others,
particularly those suffering and in need
whom you bring to our awareness,
as you have loved and cared for Christ in us. Amen.


This prayer service may be used as the liturgy for December 8th or adapted for use in a prayer service sometime in the month of December 2005.

1) Have copies available for participants:
  • Liturgy/prayer service
  • Music
  • Act of Consecration to Mary to hand out at the end of Mass or prayer service. If possible, copy this prayer on stiff paper (24#). A "master" is provided that prints two copies of the prayer per sheet of paper.

2) Celebrant/Leader or delegate will:
  • read the Welcome at the beginning
  • invite participants into the Reflect/Share period following Gospel
  • read the Closing Announcement just before the closing blessing

3) Ask individuals as needed:
  • Readers 1, 2 and 3
  • Reader for Intercessions