Opening doors through education
Within a year after their arrival in 1851, the Sisters responded to the desperate need for teachers in Catholic schools for Toronto and the neighbouring towns and villages. By 1900 the majority of Toronto Catholic elementary schools were staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Christian Brothers.
They went on to make an impact in the area of women's education. In 1854 they opened St. Joseph's Academy, a private day and boarding school for girls in their first motherhouse on Power Street. St. Joseph's Academy offered primary and high school studies. Later known as St. Joseph's College School and now located on Wellesley Street West, it has a long tradition of educating young women by focusing on their intellectual, physical, social and creative abilities in a Catholic, faith-filled environment.
The Sisters founded five girls' high schools in the Toronto area - St. Joseph's College School, St. Joseph's Morrow Park High School, St. Joseph's High School, Islington (now Michael Power/St. Joseph's High School), St. Joseph's Commercial School and in Oshawa, Msgr. Paul Dwyer Catholic High School. The Sisters also established three schools of nursing attached to their hospitals, two in Toronto and one in Winnipeg.
In the years leading up to 1911, the Sisters were committed to providing post-secondary opportunities to young women for teacher training and university degrees. In 1911 St. Joseph's College was established alongside Loretto College for women students of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto.
Today, some Sisters are engaged in education at the graduate and post-graduate level. Other Sisters respond to the spiritual, social and practical needs of others in a variety of ways: through spiritual direction; parish ministries with a focus on spirituality; ministry to mature adults; sacramental preparation; as well as drop-in programmes that teach life skills and build community.
By Linda Wicks, Congregational Archivist