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Journey to a Mission 

Chronology Leading to the Arrival of the Sisters of Providence in Washington Territory, 1856


2. The Decision of the General Council, October 3, 1856

Resistance was strong among some church leaders in Montreal. They were critical of opening a Providence mission in Bishop A.M.A. Blanchet’s far-flung diocese in the Pacific Northwest. In 1852 a group of sisters did arrive in Oregon Territory in hopes of aiding him to care for his flock. But with no one to receive them in a region that people had abandoned in pursuit of California gold, the discouraged delegation left to return to Montreal (eventually establishing the community in Chile). Uncertainties for yet another mission still prevailed four years later.

After the second petition submitted on Sept. 24 by Blanchet to the sisters’ General Council, the bishop’s prayers were answered on Oct. 3, 1856. Mindful of the promise she and her prelate, Bishop Ignace Bourget, had made to the pioneer bishop, the estimable Mother Emilie Caron and council voted unanimously in support of the petition and to accept the mission in Vancouver, Washington Territory.

A councilor, Sister Joseph (nee Esther Pariseau), was elected superior of the new mission. The next question however left the council in more of a quandary. Who to accompany Sister Joseph? The community had lost numbers to the foundation in Chile and the rest could not be spared from current demands. The congregation hardly had recovered from two recent calamitous events in 19th century Montreal: the fire of 1852 that burned one of their hospices and the cholera epidemic of 1854.

Mother Caron and council needed more time to select the other missionaries. Blanchet lit candles in honor of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows as he anxiously awaited for the rest of his “daughters” to be named.


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The Bishop's Petition, Sept. 24, 1856

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A New Group pf Missionary Sisters, Oct. 3, 1856