When the Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Toronto on Oct. 7, 1851, their first concern was for the orphans and the many people who were sick and poor. Many Irish immigrants were coming into Toronto. They were hungry, ill and in need of housing and care. Mother Delphine Fontbonne and her companions responded.
From the orphanage, they went out to assist the living and comfort the dying. In an 1855 letter to the Catholics of the city, Bishop de Charbonnel begged for help to build a House of Providence. He asked, "Besides offering a little comfort to poor immigrants, could we not attend to [the sick] and gather up some more orphans?"
Although she did not live to see the House’s completion, Mother Delphine was involved in the planning. Construction began in 1856 and was still in progress when the House of Providence opened in 1857. Over the next century, it quadrupled to house over 700 people without regard to origin or creed. Orphans, elderly, invalids, transients and homeless all received food and shelter.
By January 1962, when the Power Street property was expropriated for the Richmond Street exit ramp of the Don Valley Parkway, the residents moved to a new facility in Scarborough. The House of Providence was renamed several times, becoming Providence Villa and Hospital, then Providence Centre and now Providence Healthcare. It continues today as a leading Toronto health care facility, providing rehabilitation, complex continuing care, long-term care and outreach programs within a welcoming community of compassion, hope and healing. The legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph lives on.