Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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A House of Compassion

When the Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Toronto on Oct. 7, 1851, their first concern was for orphans and the sick poor. As Irish immigrants swarmed into the city — hungry, sick, in need of housing and care — Mother Delphine and her companions responded. From the orphan asylum, they went out to nurse the sick 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 to care for the needy. He asked, “Besides offering a little comfort to poor immigrants, could we not attend to [the sick] and gather up some more orphans? Could we not save from destruction some young girls, shelter widows, and help some elderly or invalids?” The Bishop wrote that alleviating the social and domestic problems accompanying poverty was one of the main goals of a House of Providence. 

Construction began in 1856 and was still in progress when the House opened in 1857. Over the next century, it quadrupled to house over 700 residents without regard to nationality or religion — orphans, elderly, invalids, transients and homeless received food and shelter. It was a forerunner of Providence Villa and Hospital (later Providence Centre and now Providence Healthcare).

By January 1962, the mostly aged residents moved to a new facility in Scarborough. There, care of the elderly has continued and evolved as Providence Healthcare and the legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph continues to adapt to changing needs in our society.

By Grace Sauvé CSJ


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