Nourishing Body and Soul
Dating back to the 17th century, the founding constitutions of the Sisters of St. Joseph urge them to assess the needs of communities in which they live and find ways to help their most underrepresented and needy neighbours. The Sisters opened the House of Providence in 1857 to fulfill this responsibility at a time when social services in Toronto were virtually non-existent and the city’s elderly, terminally ill, poor and disabled residents had few options for care.
"They will divide the city into various sections and either personally or through their associates they will learn what disorders prevail [and] try to remedy these problems themselves or seek the help of people who [can]." — Sisters of St. Joseph Constitutions, 1657
At the House of Providence, the Sisters provided both physical nourishment and emotional and spiritual support. A 1924 Globe and Mail article, part of which is pictured at right, reported that the House of Providence served between 80 and 90 meals per day to the city’s unemployed men and women.
Today, the Sisters continue their commitment to providing nourishment to underserved community members, constantly adjusting programs to meet changing needs. Following in this tradition is ‘Eat Pray Share.’ Presented by Fontbonne Ministries’ young adult ministry, Faith Connections, part of whose flyers are shown at the bottom of this article, this unique program combines the love of good food with stimulating spiritual dialogue. ‘Theology on Tap’ also provides young adults with an informal setting for sharing thought-provoking discussions on faith and justice topics.
Established in 2000, the Mustard Seed is another one of Fontbonne Ministries’ programs dedicated to community nourishment. Located in Toronto’s South Riverdale neighbourhood, the centre offers drop-in programs that embrace the idea of sharing food as a starting point to building community. Some of these programs include ‘Community Kitchen,’ ‘Community Gardens,’ ‘Whimsical Wednesdays for Women’ and ‘Saturday Adult Drop-In.’ In addition, Village Mosaic in South Etobicoke nourishes community among seniors in the area through a variety of programs. Some Sisters offer spiritual guidance to individuals and through group retreats for women. In this way, the Sisters are continuing their long tradition of nourishing people in body and soul.
By Sheena Stemler, Archives Assistant