On August 2nd, 1826, Pope Leo XII gave the name Faithful Companions of Jesus to our Society at the request of our foundress, Marie Madeleine, who said:
To have this name, Faithful Companions of Jesus,
I would give everything, all that I am…
Pope Leo XII also began the review of our Constitutions, which Marie Madeleine said were dearer to her than life itself. On August 2nd, 1985, the Holy See approved them, and the Ignatian principles they contain:
- apostolic companionship in discernment for mission
- service for the greater glory of God – the ‘magis’
- unity and diversity
- excelling in the obedience which sends us on our mission
- formation to interior freedom and maturity of spirit.
We include here a brief account of the story of the FCJ journey to and within the Americas, as well as a timeline of the major events in this history.
If you would like to read more of our early FCJ history in the Americas, please contact our Province Archivist through our Contact page.
(Page numbers throughout the following section refer to Journeying through a Century, Sister Pioneers 1883 – 1983, edited by Shirley Majeau, fcJ.)
In 1882 Bishop Vital Grandin, OMI, Bishop of territories in the West of Canada, wrote to Mother Josephine Petit, Superior General of the Sisters, Faithful Companions of Jesus in France, I hope, Reverend Mother, that you will be willing to come to our aid by accepting a foundation in my poor diocese… Mother Josephine Petit, then General Superior of the FCJ Sisters, answered that plea, and the first group of sisters came to Canada in 1883.
Monseigneur, you ask for the Sisters for your schools and your diocese in urgent need. The journey will be long, difficult, costly and even dangerous…Your poverty does not permit you to pay our traveling expenses. You ask for sacrifices. Well, we will do it for God.
FCJ Superior General Mother Josephine Petit in 1882
Eight sisters left Liverpool, England, on May 10, 1883. They journeyed by boat across the Atlantic for eleven days. After a day in Quebec, they travelled to Montreal on the train and it is there, at the Grey Nuns’ Motherhouse, that the FCJs met Bishop Grandin.
Some days were spent visiting different convents and schools before the pioneer FCJs, Bishop Grandin, and some Oblate students and novices took the train to Winnipeg.
In passing from Sarnia to Port Huron the train was divided into three large sections and placed on a large flat boat which steamed slowly across in about half an hour.” (p 34) On June 11 the missionaries got off the train at Qu’Appelle. The remainder of their voyage was to be in covered wagons.
“Monseigneur told us how much he suffered while saying Mass sometimes, from the bites of the mosquitoes which often caused the blood to run down his face. We did our best this morning to screen him, for they came in swarms. We covered the opening of his tent with our thin canvas and knelt outside, this protected the good bishop and he found it a great relief. It was difficult for us to hear Mass in peace – not for an instant were we still. We were beating off these little creatures every moment. Our gloves and veils were, to some degree, a protection, but the mosquitoes stung through our shawls and stockings. The bishop says they will even pierce the leather of the moccasins. We were trying to find a good specimen for our beloved Reverend Mother General to look at and certainly we shall have no difficulty.” (p 64)
En route Bishop Grandin told the sisters, “In reading the life of your Foundress I see that the spirit of poverty and humility has presided over all your foundations. Another thing that pleases me is that your Society was founded at the same time as ours, and approved of by the same Pope. And then your Mother had such zeal for the salvation of souls. I think that you are destined for the Missions, and I admire more and more the designs of Providence in choosing you for my diocese. You must expect the poverty and humiliation of a small beginning, but God will be with you, you are His faithful Companions… What an amount of good you have to do!” (p 36)
In reading the life of your Foundress I see that the spirit of poverty and humility has presided over all your foundations… You must expect the poverty and humiliation of a small beginning, but God will be with you, you are His faithful Companions… What an amount of good you have to do!
The little community of Prince Albert, four in number, reached its destination on the evening of the 30th June 1883, thus beginning the work of our Society on the eve of the beautiful month dedicated to the Precious Blood. (p 75)
“On our first arrival we had been disappointed on finding that our Sisters in St. Laurent were to be separated from us by a distance of about 40 miles, as we thought we would have been able to see each other occasionally. It is true that in this country that is considered nothing, but we have no means of conveyance and it would be a great expense to hire a vehicle.
However, we have been in constant communication with them, caravans set out nearly every week from St. Lawrence and Prince Albert to Winnipeg. By this means we can write to our dear mothers, as well as by the post, which, from the first day of our arrival, has been established regularly every week. At present, there is no communication by the railway; we are deprived of a great many temporal advantages, and we have also to wait two long months before receiving an answer to our letters from our beloved Reverend Mother. The telegraph is going to be erected and there is hope that the railway will be commenced next year.” (pp 82,83)
“On the 6th January (1884), an Indian baby was brought for baptism; its godparents asked us to give it a name. We called the little girl Philomena and she is probably the first in these parts who bears the name of the saint we love so much.
“Our dear pupils returned on the 7th evidently determined to make good use of their time at school. One new boarder and several day scholars were added to our number.” (p 106)
Despite all the efforts of the Sisters and of Bishop Grandin to teach the children their catechism, after several months the majority of the children scarcely knew what was strictly necessary to receive their first communion.
“But their hearts were very pure and they longed so much for our Lord’s visit. For many weeks before this happy day, although they are not very proficient in arithmetic, they counted the days and hours which separated them from this blessed moment … The first communion day was therefore a beautiful and lovely feast, the Fathers who were present said they had never before seen children so well prepared, nor had they ever had so much consolation in all their missionary life.” (pp 119,120)
“In Spring when the snow should render the crossing of the river impossible to those who lived on the other side, a little girl, 10 years of age, fearing to lose her catechism lesson, and not to make her First Communion, begged of her parents to sell her little cow (to which she was greatly attached) in order that she might attend our school. Among our boarders we have a little orphan, a little girl of three years of age, who is of French, English, Cree, Saulteux and Assiniboine descent. This dear child charms everybody by her simple piety.’ (p 123)
Meanwhile, in the 1884 annals of St. Laurent we read: “On Low Sunday (April), twenty children approached the Holy Table for the first time.”
The year 1885 was the time of the Northwest Rebellion. The Annals of Prince Albert read “We shall long remember the feast of St. Joseph 1885 for it was on that day that the standard of rebellion was raised and a few days later the town was threatened with an attack from the rebels. Who could tell our fears and anxiety for ourselves and our sisters of St. Laurent during the two months in which we lived in constant dread of attack. But God watched over us in a special manner and we were preserved from the many and imminent perils of which we were surrounded. At last, the 14th of May, we had the consolation of knowing that our dear sisters of St. Laurent were safe and well.” (p 125)
A little of the anxiety can be felt by reading the annals of St. Laurent: “…we learned that the father of one of our children had been arrested and condemned to death because he refused to take part in the rebellion. The large store in Duck Lake had been pillaged and then burned. Other items of bad news followed in succession, and all we could do was to share the sadness of our children and the dark presentiments of Father Fourmond. The Rosary was said and the Stations of the Cross were made from morning till night in our little Chapel, our children replacing each other continually. ‘Pray, my children, I beseech you,’ Father would say to them. ‘Ask God that no blood be shed and that all those men disperse quietly.'” (p 163)
On July 11, 1885, the FCJ sisters left St. Laurent to establish a school in Calgary, Alberta. Two days before their departure Bishop Grandin visited them and said, “Poor Mothers, how you have suffered! What troubles you have had! How very worried your Reverend Mother must have been! And I, who was powerless to write her anything of reassuring nature regarding your fate.” (p 204) Welcomed in Calgary on July 26, 1885, the Sisters were given the Oblate Fathers’ home as their residence and immediately opened their doors to children for classes in September.
From the beginning, Mother Mary Greene, the superior at Sacred Heart Convent and Principal of Sacred Heart Convent and Boarding School, worked to gain government recognition. The education standards of the school were such that on December 18, 1885, what eventually came to be called the Calgary Roman Catholic School District #1, came into existence. (See the entry about this early FCJ story in Calgary’s Glenbow Museum.)
Another group of missionary FCJs was sent from Liverpool on September 13, 1883 to Brandon, Manitoba.
They spent a few days at St. Boniface. A Fr. MacCarthy greeted them on behalf of Archbishop Taché. “He gave us a curriculum for the classes we would be starting, and even procured the necessary books with which to start. He assures us at Brandon we had complete freedom in Catholic teaching because a law had been passed by which His Grace has full and complete authority over Catholic studies. He is the absolute master and protector, the Protestants have nothing to do with it. Furthermore, here, like everywhere else in Canada, all social classes (rank) are mixed in education, thus the daughter of the poorest labourer would be seated, without distinction, next to the daughter of the richest middle class person. All receive the same instruction. In this regard, there is no reason to criticize.” (p 239)
“At last, Monday, 8 October (1883) at a quarter to nine, the bell called the children and at 9 classes began. Only fifteen children, boys and girls, Catholic and Protestants, had arrived on time…. We taught them catechism, bible stories, reading, writing, grammar, geography, arithmetic, French and singing, and we noticed day by day that everything was new to them… Since October the number of day pupils has risen to more than 50. We have been notified of several boarders but the cold weather has kept them at home until spring.” (p 244)
The school in Brandon prospered for some time, but by 1887 a change began. “In 1893 the number of boarders had run to twenty-four and the school was progressing satisfactorily. In this year, however, discrimination against Catholics became more pronounced. It was difficult for Catholics to obtain any kind of position or even a job in the bigoted city. In that year too, the convent, which had been tax exempt as Religious houses were elsewhere in Manitoba, was required to pay taxes on the property. Manitoba school laws became more severe and more difficult to cope with.” (p 263) As a result the sisters moved to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and eventually, a year later to Fitchburg, Massachussetts.
Bishop Grandin wrote again to M. Josephine Petit, Superior General, to ask for sisters for Edmonton, Alberta. He pointed out that Edmonton and Prince Albert are joined by the same river and therefore that the sisters could communicate with each other rather easily!
On August 9, 1888, a party of twelve (nine Mothers and three Sisters) left Liverpool for Canada. After ten days travel they arrived safely in Quebec. The Grey Sisters, as with all former parties, were exceptionally hospitable towards them. The FCJ party boarded the train on August 20 headed for Brandon, and from Brandon four of the travelling companions left for Prince Albert, two remained at Brandon, and six travelled on to Calgary to arrive there much fatigued on August 25.
After a few weeks with their sisters in Calgary, on October 1st, 1888, at 9 o’clock in the morning, five FCJs left Calgary with the good-byes and God-speeds of their Sisters ringing in their ears. They were followed by a long line of Red River wagons bearing their luggage; the household goods for their new home; the vestments, vessels, and ornaments to be used at Holy Mass by their leader, Reverend H. Grandin, omi. (Nephew to Msgr. Grandin); and last, but by no means least, food for the journey, and a couple of crates of hens and a rooster. The ride over the prairie would take ten “days during which time they were alone on these vast stretches of uninhabited country, with scarcely a house between Calgary and their destination.” (pp 255, 256)
Next, on December 22, 1888, Bishop Grandin wrote to M. Josephine (p 259):
I am obliged to tell you, Reverend Mother – I am afraid of scaring you off by my rashness – but all I can do is ask you. Your daughters have scarcely settled in Edmonton when I dare to make another request of you for another new town of my diocese. It is Lethbridge.
Five Sisters from Prince Albert, Edmonton and Calgary met at a small coal trading post called Dunmore, east of Medicine Hat. As early as 1885, Dunmore had a narrow-gauge railway! (No C.P. or C.N. train ran into the Fort Lethbridge at this time.) Sometimes, at night, a fairly comfortable passenger-coach was attached to the coal trucks but since our nuns were advised by Fr. Van Tighem to travel by day, they used the guard’s van at the end of the twenty or so coal cars for this their first, smutty, bumpy ride of 100 miles to their new mission.
Arriving earlier than was expected, the Sisters made their way to the Church where Our Divine Lord was the first to welcome them.
‘The good nuns’, writes Fr. Van Tighem, ‘made themselves at home in the school room.’ ‘There were no beds and no bedsteads, the Sisters state in the Annals, ‘so we put two desks together for a cozy bed and we gathered from our bundles all the clothing we could spare for covering.’” (p 260)
Meanwhile, Archbishop Taché was anxious to have FCJ sisters in Rat Portage, Ontario (now Kenora), a small town at one end of Lake of the Woods. Four FCJs moved to Rat Portage in August 1892. “Classes began in September with an enrolment of seventy children but before Christmas their number had tripled and there was much difficulty in fitting them all into the limited space. Inspectors came and were satisfied with the work done. The pupils, our Mothers found, worked hard in their classes and equally hard at their play. . . Yet, after ten years, the Society left Rat Portage and the community was dispersed to other FCJ Canadian or American convents.” (p 265)
From January 1895 to July 1903, FCJs worked with Father Paquette, OMI, in the Native School at Duck Lake, Saskatchewan.
Not until 1948 did the Society, Faithful Companions of Jesus, establish another convent in central Canada. Seven sisters arrived in Combermere, Ontario in mid-August, 1948. “Around 1965 the enrolment reached a peak of about two hundred boarding and day students. Some non-Catholics were accepted and this was instrumental in breaking down prejudice in the area.” (p 270) Combermere closed in 1974.
In 1950 the bishops of Toronto, Ontario invited the Faithful Companions of Jesus to teach in their diocese. The sisters were also looking for a foundation in a Catholic university town where their young sisters could be educated. So, in 1951, the first FCJ house was opened in Toronto. (p272) The Sisters have lived in several houses in Toronto where they ministered in elementary schools in the Weston area and in Madonna High School and St. Mary’s High School. Since 1990, a ministry to refugees has developed into the now flourishing FCJ Refugee Centre.
From 1966 to 1968 the FCJs had a boarding school in Midnapore, Alberta, attended by girls who had been boarders in Calgary and Edmonton, as well as by many others. Even while effort was being put into developing the new school’s ‘spirit’, the FCJ Sisters were already asking: ‘Is the boarding school situation right for Albertan girls today? Is this the situation where the Sisters can best and most effectively put forth their efforts?’
When the decision to close Mary Mount as of June 1968 was made, it was the end of a long and rich tradition of FCJ boarding schools in Alberta, dating back to 1885. The adaptations required for a new era of change and renewal had begun. (p 276) In 1980, the Boarding School at Sacred Heart Convent in Calgary was completely remodelled to create suitable space for the FCJ Christian Life Centre.
From 1973 to 1982, FCJ Sisters ministered in the Parish School in Oyen, very near to the Alberta – Saskatchewan border.
In 1982 a small community opened in northeast Calgary, 9th Ave. N.E., that both served as a way to increase our outreach to a local parish and be the novitiate setting for two young women. The majority of the community worked at the FCJ Christian Life Centre.
In 1986, in response to a call from the Canadian Bishops for priests and religious to do what they could to answer some of the needs in the northern mission dioceses of Canada, FCJs were sent to New Hazelton, BC in Prince George Diocese. The Sisters ministered in the New Hazelton Catholic School until it closed and in the Parishes of New Hazelton and Moricetown. In 1991, the apostolate in Prince George Diocese was extended to Kitimat, where FCJs were involved in school and parish until 2004. In 1998, when FCJs withdrew from New Hazelton, Sr. Theresa fcJ moved to the Moricetown Reserve where she ministered, living on the reserve, until a community was formed in Smithers in 2003. Faithful Companions of Jesus remained in Smithers until 2012.
From 1989 to until June 2000, Sr. Marilyn fcJ ministered in Churchill-Hudson Bay Diocese with the Inuit People of the Eastern Arctic, now called Nunavut. For most of this time, she lived in Igloolik.
Sr. Donna Marie, a Canadian FCJ, ministered in a residential therapy centre in Bangalore, India from December 1988 until June 1996.
Sr. Jane fcJ worked as a Campus Minister, first in Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario from 1994 to 1995; then at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick from 1996 to 2001. Sister Lois Anne fcJ served in Kenema, Sierra Leone (1985-’94) and Sr. Thérèse fcJ in Kailahun in 1982.
To extend the ministry of FCJ hospitality and care, a house was purchased in Calgary in 2007. It provided a home-like, safe environment for live-in foreign nannies and care-givers on their days off. When that need lessened, the house was used for low income people, who had had a transplant and whose immunity was very low. In cooperation with Calgary Catholic Immigration and at the request of Pope Francis for religious to help with the Syrian refugee crisis, FCJ Sisters welcomed the first of four Syrian families in December 2016.
As a result of difficulties in the early mission of Brandon, the sisters moved to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in 1895 where they remained for one year. The earliest settlers in the town of Fond du Lac, situated south of Lake Winnebago, were undoubtedly French-Canadian. The area had also attracted Irish and German immigrants. They tended to settle in their native groups and consequently, a need for ethnic churches soon arose. By 1895 Father Charles Boucher welcomed the Faithful Companions of Jesus from Brandon, to administer and staff a French speaking school which had an enrollment of 100 children. The year 1895-1896 had scarcely been spent when God showed the FCJs that He wished them to pitch their tent elsewhere. “Our modest success incurred the displeasure of the only other religious community in town, which had a large German population.” The Faithful Companions of Jesus left Fond du Lac in small groups in July 1896.
In 1896, Father Vignon, Missionary of La Salette, pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish, Cleghorn, Fitchburg, Massachusetts was seeking French-speaking sisters to teach in the new parish school which had an enrollment of 200 students. Father Vignon was aware of the presence of the FCJs at Fond du Lac, and he wrote to Mother Philomena there. She confided the contents of the letter to Father Boucher who replied: “I know Fitchburg quite well. You would do well there.”
The first small group of sisters arrived in Fitchburg on July 22, 1896, to be joined a few days later by other sisters from Fond du Lac. Their home was on the third floor of the school. “We occupy a superb building situated on an eminence, surrounded by wooded heights.” (Annals) “St. Joseph’s Parish is peopled exclusively by French Canadians who have preserved their native tongue. The faith of the children is so beautiful, so simple, their regard for us so great, their docility so touching, they make our work and our burden very light.” (Annals)
Besides giving their energies to a full day in the classroom, the sisters devoted evenings and weekends to the upbuilding of Sodalities of the Children of Mary, of St. Anne and of the Sacred Heart. Soon they saw the need for religious instruction of boys and girls of the parish who worked in the factories or who attended public school. Besides, they received numerous requests for lessons in music, drawing, painting, art, embroidery, needlework, singing and French.
In 1898, six postulants received the habit in Fitchburg and left for the novitiate, St. Anne d’Auray, Brittany. Over the years many other women followed in their footsteps.
A new convent was built in 1900, which became St. Joseph Academy, a private boarding and day school for girls. It was closed in 1925. The parish school enrollment peaked in 1933 with an enrollment of 1,500 with a teaching staff of thirty FCJ sisters. When the sisters moved from the convent to the new home prepared for them at St. Joseph’s Rectory in 1975, they continued to administer and to teach in St. Joseph’s School until 1982, when the decision was made to withdraw the community from Fitchburg.
Gilbertville, Massachusetts was a small textile manufacturing centre forty miles from Fitchburg. When the Sisters of Mercy withdrew from St. Aloysius school in 1908, the FCJs from Fitchburg were invited to take their place. On August 16, 1909, six FCJs arrived in Gilbertville. They taught in the school, established sodalities, and provided religious instruction in the neighbouring towns of Hardwick and South Barre. As the Catholic population decreased due to closing of mills, so also the enrollment in the school. By 1951 it was apparent that the FCJs would withdraw from Gilbertville.
In 1922 Bishop William Hickey of Providence, Rhode Island, saw the pressing need for parochial schools in his diocese. Since Father Doran of Blessed Sacrament Parish knew the Faithful Companions of Jesus when he was pastor in Gilbertville, Massachusetts, he invited them to Providence. On August 22, 1922, five sisters took up residence at 75 Andem Street. The FCJs undertook the religious instruction of 1,100 children who were attending public school. The sisters also took care of the church sacristy, trained altar servers, and made altar breads.
On September 13, 1925, the new Blessed Sacrament School opened with 454 children enrolled and ten FCJs on staff. Parish records indicate that the Faithful Companions of Jesus contributed as many as thirty sisters each year to the school for fifty years.
St. Patrick’s High School for Girls in Providence was opened on September 11, 1933. Over the years the school developed an excellent reputation for its overall Christian educational program. In 1969 the State condemned the building, and St. Patrick’s High School was relocated in St. Lawrence Parish in North Providence. This move had serious consequences for staff and students, and eventually, in 1984, with the realization of high schools in the diocese of Providence, St. Patrick’s High School took its place in the pages of history after 50 years.
With the renewal of religious life in the 1970’s the sisters became involved in all aspects of parish life. As the number of sisters became fewer, the community moved out of the large convent on Atkins to Mount Pleasant Avenue. Other houses in the Providence area were rented, or purchased and sold, as the needs of the community and their ministries changed.
St. Philomena Convent, Portsmouth, Rhode Island opened in 1927 as a summer vacation home for the communities of Fitchburg, Gilbertville and Providence. For almost twenty-five years the sisters came to this property on Cory’s Lane overlooking Narragansett Bay for days of quiet and rest. A small community took up residence at St. Philomena Convent in 1953 and started St. Philomena School, a small, private day school and boarding school.
A new building was built in 1965, and by the 1970’s some of the sisters began to consider St. Philomena Convent as a home for their retirement years. St. Philomena School, now a day school for Grades K-8 continues to expand and to flourish. Sr. Anne Marie Walsh retired in 2006 after 25 years as principal.
In 1986 a house was purchased in Fall River, Massachusetts. This community residence was close enough to Portsmouth to allow members of the community to be a support to the community and school there, as well as to be involved in other ministries.
Responding to apostolic needs and opportunities, the FCJ Society opened small communities in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (1993-2018), Durham, North Carolina (1996 to 2013), Kingstree, South Carolina (1999-2002), and Oakland, California (1996 onwards).
The first FCJ sister to live and work in South America, Sr Mary, from the United States, established the house in Córdoba, Argentina, in 1985. It was in a poor parish on the outer rim of this city which is the second largest in Argentina.
In the ensuing years, other FCJ sisters joined Mary in Córdoba. Pastoral work, in conjunction with the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, was a strong focus in Córdoba.
Shirley, an FCJ sister from Canada, pioneered a move to rural areas in the Province of Santiago del Estero in the north of Argentina, and was joined there by other FCJs. After many years of service to the people of Clodomira and the surrounding countryside, Shirley returned to Córdoba.
At about the same time, the FCJ community moved from Clodomira to La Banda, also in the Province of Santiago del Estero. Among her activities in Córdoba, Shirley helped a group of women in the barrio to form a small business to make and sell traditional products. In December 1998, after 14 years of service in Argentina, Mary and Shirley left Córdoba, and returned to ministries in Canada and the United States.
When Sr. Stephanie, from England, was missioned to La Banda, she was instrumental in opening a school for children with special needs, Centro de Atención Múltiple María Magdalena. After many years of service in La Banda, she retired to the FCJ community in Salta, and soon began another school for children of multiple abilities, Centro de Atención Múltiple Martín de Porres, which the FCJ community and people of the barrio continued after Sr. Stephanie’s sudden death in 2010.
The house in Córdoba was re-opened in 2000 by Sr Patricia to provide an experience of building Christian community for some young women who were discerning their vocation in life.
Towards the end of April, 2001, Srs Marguerite and Patricia traveled to visit some places in the north of Argentina, very optimistically exploring the possibilities of an FCJ presence in the north of the country, nearer to Bolivia. For those who enjoy looking at maps, they visited Salta, Jujuy and Oran. Overall, it was a very positive experience, with great possibilities. The needs were great everywhere but the reality of being so few in number had to be taken into account!
By the end of 2002, a decision was made and Srs Patricia and Alicia moved to Salta where they lived in a poor and marginalised barrio, Barrio Solidaridad, that had been in existence only a few years. This city is culturally related to Bolivia and offered a good half-way point between the other two FCJ communities in Bolivia and Argentina.
On February 2, 2004, a new novitiate opened for the FCJ Province of the Americas in Salta, Argentina. The reception of the new novices took place the day before the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of FCJ presence in South America.
Ministries in Salta included pastoral work before and after the creation of the parish Santisima Trinidad, community organising, the creation of a centre for children with multiple abilities (Centro de Atención Múltiple Martín de Porres) and a library, and teaching at the Catholic University.
FCJ ministry in Bolivia began when Sr Paula, a Canadian FCJ who had been working in Córdoba, Argentina, arrived in Tarija in June 1988. Paula was quickly joined by other FCJs and the pastoral and educational work of the community grew both in Tarija itself and in the rural areas surrounding it. In 2011 the FCJ Society with the sisters in Argentina and Bolivia discerned that due to fewer sisters, it was advisable to leave Bolivia and focus energies in Salta.
After the formation of the Province of the Americas, the FCJ sisters began a discernment process to hear together whether God was calling them to a new outreach in Mexico. We recognized that Mexico offered a sort of ‘midpoint’ for our Province, between the sisters in South and North America, as well as offering many opportunities for ministry and formation. After much investigation, prayer and consultation the decision was made to begin by sending a small group of sisters from Canada, USA and Argentina to Mexico City. The first FCJs to live in Mexico wrote:
“In the first days we explored the neighborhood. We found a commercial center (Paseo Oriental) that has banks, Wal-Mart, a movie theater and other things. Nearby we also found a Mexican Commercial Center with businesses of all kinds. Close to the house there is a market and many small shops on the street which we pass en route to the parish. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone that the parish is like Santiago del Estero and Tarija.
Our first Mass was at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to which we went on our second day. This was also our first adventure on the subway, a great mode of transportation where millions of people travel each day. Afterwards, we visited the Zócalo, an enormous central plaza, and found it totally filled with tents of protesters from the last election.”
In 2008, the FCJ Sisters regretfully left Mexico, while hoping to have the opportunity to support ministries there in the future.
Timeline of Foundations and Closures in the Area of the Americas
1883 June – Arrived in Prince Albert and St. Laurent, Saskatchewan, CANADA
1883 Sept. – Arrived in Brandon, Manitoba, CANADA
1885 July – FCJs from St. Laurent went to Calgary, Alberta, CANADA
1888 Oct. – FCJs arrived in Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA
1890 Dec. – FCJs arrived in Lethbridge, Alberta, CANADA
1892 Aug. – FCJs arrived in Rat Portage, Ontario, CANADA
1895 FCJs from Brandon opened Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, USA
1895 Jan. – School for Native children opened in Duck Lake, Manitoba, CANADA
1896 FCJs arrived in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, USA
1902 Rat Portage closed
1903 July – Duck Lake closed
1909 Aug. – Gilbertville, Massachusetts, USA opened
1922 First community in Providence, RI, USA opened – Blessed Sacrament (first at 75 Andem St. till 1925, then 20 Atkins St. from 1925-1989, finally at Mt. Pleasant Avenue)
1925 In Providence, the new Blessed Sacrament School opened
1927 St. Philomena, Portsmouth, USA, opened as summer home
1933 St. Patrick’s High School opened in Providence
1948 Aug. – Combermere, Ontario, CANADA, opened
1949 St. Philomena School, Portsmouth, Rhode Island, USA opened; FCJs take up residence year round
1951 Aug. – First community in Toronto, Ontario, CANADA, opened – at Lawrence Ave. for 2 Weeks; then at Jane St. for 2 Months, then at King St. from Nov. 1951 until moving to Beaumaris Crescent in 1989
1952 Gilbertville closed
1966 Midnapore, Alberta, CANADA opened
1968 Midnapore closed
1969 Lowther Ave., Toronto, CANADA opened; St. Lawrence, North Providence, USA opened
1971 Lowther Ave., Toronto closed
1973 Oyen, Alberta, CANADA opened
1974 Combermere closed. Second Toronto community, Richgrove opened
1980 St. Lawrence, North Providence, closed
1981 Third Toronto community, Grant St., opened. FCJ Christian Life Centre, Calgary, opened
1982 Grant St. community moved to Hamilton St. Oyen closed.
525 – 9 Ave. N.E., Calgary, opened. University Avenue, Providence, RI, USA opened. Fitchburg community closed.
1984 University Ave., Providence, closed. Novitiate Community, Power Road, Pawtucket, RI, USA opened. FCJs went to Cordoba, ARGENTINA
1986 New Hazelton, BC, CANADA opened with ministry in the Hazeltons and Moricetown. Richgrove closed and Dovercourt opened. Pawtucket community moved to Fall River, MA, USA. FCJ ministry began in New York, USA.
1987 FCJs began in Clodomira, Santiago Del Estero, ARGENTINA, La Banda
1988 FCJ Ministry began in Tarija, BOLIVIA and in Bangalore, INDIA
1989 FCJ ministry undertaken in Igloolik, Nunavut, CANADA and continued until June, 2000. Hamilton Street, Toronto, closed to make Hamilton House Refugee Project possible
1991 FCJs go to Kitimat, British Columbia, CANADA. Hamilton House Refugee Project opened formally
1993 FCJs go to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA
1994 Brunswick Avenue opened in Toronto. FCJ ministry began in Windsor, Ontario, CANADA and continued until 1995
1996 FCJs go to Durham, North Carolina. FCJ ministry began in El Cerrito (later Oakland), California, USA. FCJ ministry began in Fredericton, New Brunswick, CANADA. FCJ ministry in Bangalore, India closed
1998 FCJ leave New Hazelton; ministry continued in Moricetown, BC, CANADA
1999 FCJ ministry began in Kingstree, South Carolina
2000 FCJ ministry ends in Kingstree, South Carolina. FCJ reopened Cordoba to offer young women community experience
2001 FCJ moved from Moricetown and a new community was formed in Smithers BC; Ministry in Moricetown continued.
2002 A new house is opened in Salta, ARGENTINA
2002 On September 1, the Canadian Province, the US Province and Bolivia and Argentina united to form the new PROVINCE of the AMERICAS
2002 A new FCJ Community begins at 2312-22 Ave SW in Calgary, with a responsibility for hospitality and welcoming young women who want an experience of community living
2003 FCJ Hamilton House Refugee Project in Toronto moves to Oakwood Avenue and changes name to FCJ Refugee Centre
2004 The FCJs leave Kitimat, BC
2004 A second community is opened in Edmonton, Alberta (Emmaus) in a rented house to welcome those wanting an experience of community living.
2005 The Emmaus community moved to a new house in Edmonton.
2006 Three FCJ Sisters were missioned to start a new community in Mexico City, renting living space from the Sacred Heart Sisters. Moricetown ministry ended.
2007 521 -19 Avenue, Calgary opened as a place to welcome and assist immigrant women workers and later, transplant patients from out of town and of low income.
2008 Several FCJs in Toronto moved to two new houses on Palmerston Avenue.
2008 FCJs left Mexico but hoped to maintain support for ministry in Mexico.
2009 The St. Philomena Convent building was closed.
2011 9th Avenue and 22nd Avenue communities in Calgary closed; a new house ‘Shalom’ is opened in McKenzie Towne, in the far south of the city.
FCJs left Tarija, Bolivia
2012 Smithers closed
2016 December 521 -19 Ave. Calgary – offered temporary accommodation for refugee families.
2017 Shalom, Calgary closed.
2018 Tuscaloosa, Alabama closed