Sister Blandine of the Holy Angels
Teacher to the First Western Novices
Zephirine Collin was fluent in both French and English, skills that would help in her role as secretary for Mother Joseph and later for the Corporation of the House of Providence in the West.
Born March 9, 1838, she and her siblings were encouraged by their parents to consider religious life. On February 11, 1854, Zephirine responded to God’s call and entered the Sisters of Providence in Montreal. On August 18, 1856, she pronounced her vows at 18 and was given the name Sister Blandine of the Holy Angels.
When sisters were considered to travel to the Washington Territory, Mother Caron knew that Sister Blandine’s excellent language skills would be an asset. Sister Blandine was excited by the thought of becoming a missionary, especially if she could work with Indian children. After being professed for only two months, she was chosen for the long journey to the West. She shared in all the manual labor that was necessary for the early missionaries in the new foundation and also continued her studies in English as well as music.
In her December 1856 letter to Mother Caron, Superior General, Mother Joseph wrote,
"Sister Blandine the Holy Angels, although happy and very courageous in her work, is frequently influenced by bouts of loneliness and weariness…."
When the first mission school, Providence Academy, opened on Easter Tuesday, 1857, Sister Blandine greeted the seven pupils with joy as she set out to inspire them with devotion to the Blessed Mother. While teaching and serving as secretary to Mother Joseph, Sister Blandine was also appointed to serve for a few months as Mistress of Novices for Sisters Mary of the Precious Blood and Vincent de Paul. She was again appointed of Mistress of Novices in 1861, when the first women entered the Vancouver novitiate: Maria Sullivan, Anastasia Wall and Nancy Crate, who became Sisters Mary Augustine, Philomene of Jesus and John the Baptist, respectively.
Sister Blandine of the Holy Angels held numerous offices, including founding Superior of Our Lady of Seven Dolors Indian School, Tulalip, in 1868; St. Joseph Academy, Yakima, 1875; and Providence Hospital, Seattle, 1877. Due to failing health, Sr. Blandine returned to the Mother House in Montreal in 1895 after serving 39 years in the West. When the Sisters in Vancouver invited her to return to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the foundation there in 1906, she gracefully accepted the invitation to return. Sr. Blandine, age 84, died at the motherhouse in Montreal on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1922, the last of the foundresses of the West to return home to God.
Excerpted from a chapter in Sister Barbara Schamber's unpublished manuscript history of the Sisters of Providence in the West for the community's sesquicentennial.