Sisters of Providence 175th anniversary year closes with a flourish in Montreal

Providence Associates, Companions, staff and friends joined the Sisters of Providence, March 26-29, to mark the close of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the religious congregation. Hosted at the Sisters of Providence mother house in Montreal, it was a time of joy, reflection, history, connection, gratitude and the generous hospitality for which the sisters are known.

More than 500 sisters and guests traveled from the western U.S., western Canada, Quebec, Chile, Haiti, Cameroon, Egypt, El Salvador, Argentina and the Philippines to participate in the celebration. Events during the week included the Footsteps of Emilie, a walking tour of significant places in the life of Emilie Gamelin, tours of the archives and museum at the mother house, and a day of reflection to deepen participants’ connection with the Providence charism, mission and spirituality.

The week of festivities culminated with a Mass at the Mother House Chapel on March 29 (the anniversary of the first profession in the congregation) presided by Christian Lépine, archbishop of Montreal. Liturgical processions, rich in meaning, with hymns and songs by L’Ensemble Vocal Épiphanie from Sainte-Famille de Bordeaux-Cartierville Parish, contributed to an unforgettable experience. Sisters and friends unable to attend in person were able to watch the Mass via live-streaming. Mass was followed by a festive banquet luncheon in the mother house dining room for all 500 guests.

For those in attendance, the 175th anniversary closing celebration was inspirational and moving. Here several sisters and Providence leaders shared highlights from their experience and what it meant to them.

Susanne Hartung, SP

My week-long experience of being in Montreal for the 175th called to mind such a spiritual awareness of all the blessings we have received over these many years. I had the opportunity to lead groups for two days in the footsteps of Emilie Gamelin. The interest and engagement of the pilgrims was inspirational. I met so many people from other provinces that enhance the depth of our relationship with the laity, following the legacy of Emilie. The final liturgy proclaimed our cultural diversity and the breath of our global involvement. It was so moving to witness this proclamation through the presentation of the flags and the multiple languages spoken. It was such a privilege to serve on the 175th committee and experience a flawless endeavor. Thanks to the general council and to all who worked tirelessly to make it memorable.

Myrta Iturriaga, SP

My visit to Montreal for the celebration of 175th anniversary of the foundation of our community was a wonderful experience. The highlight was following the life of Mother Gamelin at the museum and following her footsteps in Montreal. Every step marks a profound life. Because I entered the Sisters of Providence in Chile, I was more connected with Mother Bernarda Morin. Now Mother Emilie Gamelin is growing in my life and, especially, in my heart. This was the best part of my experience — she is more alive with me in this time and has filled me with hope and renewed energy for the future of the community.

Sharon Casey, OP

The pilgrimage to Montreal for the 175th Anniversary was a sacred journey for me. Walking in the footsteps of Blessed Emilie, conversing with Sisters of Providence from other provinces around the world, and viewing the historical legacy in the museum and archives deepened my appreciation and understanding of the charism and spirituality of the sisters as well as appreciating the covenant relationship between the Tacoma Dominicans and Mother Joseph Province. Two things touched my heart: the closing Mass which was a visible sign of unity among all present — sisters, associates, collaborators, partners and sisters of other communities — and visiting the statue of Blessed Emilie in the Basilica of Notre Dame and realizing that right beside her was St. Dominic. Providence does show the way!

Lucille Dean, SP

It was a blessing and a privilege to have been able to be present in Montreal for the closing celebrations of our Sisters of Providence 175th Jubilee. To be with our sisters from across the congregation, as well as many of our lay collaborators, family members and lay friends, added to the fullness of all for which we were giving thanks. A particular highlight for me was the day of reflection on our Providence spirituality so beautifully presented by our Leadership Team members.

Barbara Schamber, SP

How fortunate for us to be alive during the 175th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Sisters of Providence religious community. Congregational Leader Karin Dufault, SP, and the general council — Rolland Malo, SP, Josie Lerios, SP, Hortense Demia-Mbailaou,SP, Nancy Arevalo, SP, and Annette Noel, SP — along with the general administration staff truly detailed every aspect of the week-long experiences of Blessed Emilie, Mother Joseph and Mother Bernarda for the enjoyment of all. Sponsors of Providence St. Joseph Health were also invited to attend and relished the experiences, from our housing across the street from the Metro station with the statue of Emilie, to walking the footsteps in old Montreal. The tour of the museum at the International Centre, as well as the historical and financial archives, brought life to the early years of the foundation. Other inspired presentations by Sisters Karin, Annette and Nancy along with the delightful coordination of Sister Josie, were not only informative, but entertaining as well. Sister Rollande topped off the entire week off with a banquet for over 500 persons after the magnificent liturgy with simultaneous translation in English, French and Spanish. Archbishop Christian Lépine detailed the countries to which God’s Providence currently calls us and gave a beautiful tribute to our foundress and Bishop Bourget. Soon it was time to return with so many grateful memories of this unforgettable week of prayer and reflection on the gift we have been asked to carry on for the poor and vulnerable as our foundresses did. Providence of God, we thank you for all!

Rod Hochman, MD, president and CEO, Providence St. Joseph Health

It was an honor to be invited to attend the 175th anniversary celebration of the Sisters of Providence. One of the many highlights was Sister Karin Dufault’s introduction, particularly her discussion of the meaning of the word Providence. The Mass with the procession of the flags of the nations where the Sisters of Providence are present was very impressive. This was a wonderful family celebration, and I was very honored to be invited and hopefully play a small part in continuing the blessed work of this Ministry.

Anna Loan Nguyen, SP

I was profoundly struck by the Gospel according to Matthew 25:21-40, read by Archbishop Christian Lépine during the Mass in honor of the 175th anniversary of the foundation of the Sisters of Providence on Friday, March 29, 2019. The Gospel moved me to identify and feel aligned with our foundress, Mother Emilie Gamelin, who spent her life among the sick, the poor, the imprisoned and the outcast. Her words strongly echoed in my heart, “I pray that you may always love the poor.” Being a part of this 175th anniversary event was truly an uplifting “Pentecost” moment in my life. I was honored and proud to carry the white flag in the ceremony and more deeply impacted when I learned it was symbolic of our congregation’s future, a future of hope. Deep within my soul I felt the pure love and hope of God that continues to pour out in our community. I began weeping and in that moment felt the flame burning in my heart. It gave me great excitement for future vocations and a renewal of our dedication to love and serve the poor.

Mary Hawkins, SP

It was a delight to be able to attend the Sister of Providence 175th celebration in Montreal. What a blessing it was! The day of reflection was a special grace that gifted my heart. The presentations by the leadership team and the responses of the panel were memorable. Also, just to be with all the sisters, various cultures, lay men and women was a great joy. I was amazed and grateful for all those who welcomed us, and all who planned and prepared the treasures we experienced. The liturgy and the banquet were outstanding!  Providence, we thank you for all!

Anita Butler, SP
This trip was a nostalgic time for me because of all the experiences I’ve had in Montreal. I enjoyed visiting with many friends I’ve known since 1980. There is something about the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal that moves me. Visiting the statue of Blessed Emilie Gamelin there was a special moment. A lighthearted moment that stood out to me was when several of us were viewing a collection of habits in the archives. I’m older than the others, and when we looked at examples of the traditional habits of a professed sister, a novice and a postulant, others thought it was wrong but I could say it was right — from personal experience. Also, a number of our lay leaders came to Montreal, and it was inspiring to them to see our history. They were energized by being there. The liturgy on March 29 was very special — the music and total community participation. It was a great depiction of who we are.

Dougal Hewitt, EVP & chief mission officer, Providence St. Joseph Health

The day of reflection during the celebrations was especially memorable. Anchored in Sister Karin Dufault’s profound and beautiful exploration of the meaning of ‘Providence,’ the day featured speakers who demonstrated the breadth and depth and impact of the Sisters of Providence. There was a wonderful sense of hospitality and inclusivity that resonated throughout all of the events and activities marking the 175th anniversary. People of many different backgrounds, cultures and traditions, and speaking many different languages, all came together and welcomed one another. The closing Mass in the chapel was a very special, sacred experience that was deeply moving with music, word, dance and ritual woven together so beautifully. The extraordinary banquet is worthy of mention, not only for the delicious meal that was served but for the sense of shared community that permeated all of the days and the way that those who had cooked and prepared and served were recognized spoke to the respect that the Sisters of Providence have always shown to their partners. Truly, I was honored to participate in this extraordinary celebration.

View photos from the closing celebration on Flickr at