The Daughters of St. Joseph will devote themselves to hospital work [and] the visitation of the sick poor…a work they should tenderly cherish. — Constitutions - in The Writings of Jean-Pierre Médaille, SJ, p. 35
Father Médaille wrote that God had inspired the foundation of the Congregation “precisely for the relief of the sick poor.” In Toronto’s early days, the Sisters cared for the sick at home and in the fever sheds. At the request of the Medical Officer of Health for Toronto, the Sisters took charge of the Isolation Hospital during the 1891 diphtheria epidemic. The following year, they opened St. Michael’s Hospital. It was soon affiliated with the University of Toronto and continues as a world-renowned teaching hospital.
In June 1913, four Sisters went to British Columbia to open the congregation’s first western mission. St. Joseph’s General Hospital was established in Comox, Vancouver Island, for loggers and their families. Initially, they cared for the sick in the tiny farmhouse where the Sisters lived. Today, the hospital continues to operate in the Comox Valley under the direction of the Catholic Diocese of Victoria. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Sisters took over a private hospital in 1923, operating it until 1953, when it was converted to a residence for the elderly.
With Toronto’s westward expansion, the need for health care grew. The Sisters responded with the establishment of St. Joseph’s Hospital in October 1921. Our Lady of Mercy Hospital, a chronic care facility established in 1925, adjacent to the House of Providence, moved in 1940 to Sunnyside Avenue, and then merged with St. Joseph’s in 1980.
Providence Healthcare continues the rehabilitation and long-term care that began at Mercy Hospital. St. Michael’s and St. Joseph’s Hospitals extended their services into the surrounding areas with neighbourhood health clinics. Today, all three Toronto health care institutions are operating under the sponsorship of the Catholic Health Corporation of Ontario.