Patience and Perseverance
On Oct. 7, 1851, four women arrived in Toronto at the request of the new bishop, Armand de Charbonnel: Delphine (Maire-Antoinette Fontbonne) [superior], Alphonsus (Sarah Margerum), Mary Martha (Marie Bunning) and Bernard (Ellen Dinan).
Entrusted with the establishment of an orphanage, these members of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ) were the Canadian vanguard of a religious order originally founded in France in 1650, suppressed during the French Revolution, resurrected in 1807 and recently called to North America, first to St. Louis, in 1836 and later to Philadelphia. In a very short period, however, this foursome would put in place the foundations of what would become the largest order of women religious in Ontario. The legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph would be felt profoundly in Ontario’s health care system, social services and the publicly-funded Catholic schools.
By Mark G McGowan, Professor of History
St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto
From Principal Connections, Winter 2011, vol. 15, Issue 22