News & Events
Jan 10, 2018
Sisters of St. Ann's 160th Anniversary
The Sisters of St. Anne* held their Provincial Chapter meeting in Victoria on the Feast of Epiphany as part of their 160th Anniversary (photo, below).
Eleven delegates were chosen for the upcoming General Chapter of the Congregation of St. Ann* this coming July in Lachine, Quebec. The whole Diocese celebrates with the Sisters, and we will continue to hold the Congregation in prayer.
Looking forward to early summer, the Sisters will celebrate their 160th anniversary on June 2, 2018, at
St. Andrews Cathedral, at 10:30 a.m. All are invited to join them on this joyous occasion.
* Sisters of St. Anne is spelled with an ‘e’ at the end of ‘Ann’ in Western Canada, and without it in Eastern Canada
The beginnings ...
In 1857, Bishop Modeste Demers left Vancouver Island for Quebec on a search among religious communities for teachers who would come west to teach the children of the French Canadian fur traders and their aboriginal partners or wives. He found a positive answer to his request in a small community only recently founded and serving in the rural villages of Quebec. All 44 of the Sisters in the congregation of the Sisters of St. Ann offered to leave their convents, their families and the familiar environment ... Four were chosen.
After an arduous journey of two months along the Atlantic Coast, crossing the Isthmus of Panama and then up the Pacific Coast, the four young women, accompanied by a loyal and devout Catholic laywoman and four clergymen, arrived in Victoria on June 5, 1858, four years before Victoria was incorporated. Even Bishop Demers who had been away only a year was astounded by the changes he saw before him. The Fraser River Gold Rush had completely altered the young colony. Steamers landing at the wharf brought in hundreds of men from San Francisco and other cities seeking their fortune in the gold fields.
Bishop Demers, his companions, the four Sisters, and their companion, were welcomed by Governor James Douglas, Dr. John Sebastian and Mrs Helmcken and other citizens of Victoria. After a refreshing meal at the Helmcken household the Sisters were led to a small, rundown shack with dirt flooring, no glass in the windows, and without well or outhouse. Immediately they set about cleaning the house, laying their mattresses on the floor in the loft and preparing the downstairs by placing boards on packing boxes to form the seats and tables for the classroom.
At first, the number of children to come to the school was small and consisted of First Nations and Métis children but it quickly grew and all children who wanted an education were welcomed including three of Governor Douglas’ daughters. The classroom was soon found to be inadequate and an extension was built. From the first months of their arrival, the Sisters were called not only to educate the children but to also visit homes to care for the sick and prepare the dying.
Thus was laid the foundation for the many schools and hospitals built and run by the Sisters of St. Ann throughout the province and in the north in the 154 years since they first made their home in Western Canada.
~ Excerpted from speech given by Sr. Sheila Moss SSA on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the City of Victoria