In Le Puy, there was an ancient institution for orphan girls and young widows in need of new management. Around 1646, Bishop de Maupas arranged for Françoise Eyraud to take charge. She was soon joined by five others who formed the nucleus of the new community. In 1650, they made simple vows and were given canonical status by the bishop. In the following year, they were legally constituted by an Act of Association. This was how the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph was born. The Sisters would soon spread throughout the south-central region of France.
They quietly ministered to people who were sick and poor, visiting these people in their own homes with healing remedies for body and soul. They took in street children, orphans and poor girls for whom prostitution seemed the only way to survive. The Sisters taught them to do embroidery and make lace and ribbons to support themselves. They also visited women prisoners, bringing food and clothing as well as spiritual solace. The Sisters would also teach school-age girls to read and write when no one else was doing so.