Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 8, 2002
Daughters of Jesus to celebrate 100 years in Canada
By SR. CÉCILE DUPUIS, fj
Special to the WCR
In the course of this year, 2002, the Daughters of Jesus will celebrate their centennial in Alberta. Less than 70 years prior to 1902, they were founded in France to meet two urgent needs in a rural parish in Brittany: instructing the young and caring for the sick.
In 1834 the first five women gathered together making a commitment to honour the sacred humanity of Jesus by serving the poor and the needy of the countryside.
When the political sectarian crisis of 1902 blew over France, 80 of their schools were closed and hundreds of sisters had to seek refuge at the motherhouse. Although approved by an imperial ordinance in 1842 and decrees in 1853 and 1857, the congregation remained under the threat of further closures, confiscation of properties and even dissolution of the congregation itself.
In these difficult moments experienced as an unjust persecution, the superior general and her council considered three solutions which meant for all hardships, poverty, obedience and surrender in faith to God.
All the sisters were affected but the measures adopted saved the congregation from total disaster and gave it new life. The young sisters and the novices were invited to return to their families for a short while. New openings were sought and obtained both in England and Belgium. A large number of sisters opted for "secularization" thus continuing "clandestinely" their teaching and care of the sick.
Meanwhile others chose exile. Bishop Emile Legal of St. Albert, in the Canadian Northwest, was the first to open doors to the Daughters of Jesus requesting them for household duties in the four main Oblate houses of his diocese.
Between October and mid-December 1902, 14 sisters were working valiantly as "Marthas": in St. Albert, at the bishop's residence and at the minor seminary, St. Joachim's Mission in Edmonton and St. Mary's Mission in Calgary. These four communities of 1902 are the ones we wish to remember and honour with gratitude in our centennial year through pilgrimages to these early centres.
Meanwhile the flow of Sisters heading for Canada grew, thanks to Mother Marie de Ste. Elizabeth who went from one diocese to another where the French population was strong enough to warrant the need for French-speaking religious.
Before the end of 1902, the Daughters of Jesus were welcomed in several centres in the Maritime provinces but the larger number by far came for the diocese of Trois Rivieres in the province of Quebec. Out West, in Canada and in Montana, U.S., from 1903 onwards, schools and hospitals were opened.
Since the 1950s the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus has become international. We find them in Ireland; Cameroun and the Republic of Congo; in Colombia and Chile; in Dominica, Jamaica and Haiti, as well as in Honduras.
Whatever the country where they toil, whatever language they speak, the Daughters of Jesus wish to pursue their mission of proclaiming and living the Gospel values of love, simplicity, compassion, peace and justice.
On May 31, in St. Joseph's Seminary chapel, a celebration of the Eucharist, presided by Archbishop-emeritus Joseph McNeil of Edmonton, will take place at 7 p.m., followed by a reception for the priests and religious of the Archdiocese of Edmonton.