Journey to a Mission
Chronology Leading to the Arrival of the Sisters of Providence in Washington Territory, 1856
4. Entrance of the Postulants, October 28, 1856
| Postulants, in the religious community’s early years, immediately took residence and received instruction from professed sisters at the Montreal motherhouse, the Providence Asile. Adelaide Theriault and Helen Norton however would only spend a few days here before embarking on new works in the Pacific Northwest. (Illustration from The Institute of Providence, vol. II, 1930.)
How quickly one’s life can change. One day Adelaide Theriault and Helen Norton harbored desires to join the Sisters of Providence and labored beside them, and the next day they were granted admission to the religious community and selected as missionaries to the Northwest.
Adelaide Theriault was 30 years old when she entered the Sisters of Providence. Family obligations prevented her from entering at a younger age. Wanting to assist with family finances, she applied to work as a seamstress in the motherhouse. As she carried out her daily tasks among the sisters, Adelaide often thought about becoming a sister, but she forced the idea from her mind since she did not feel worthy of the call to religious life. Being in the midst of the sisters each day, Adelaide was often aware of events that were about to unfold. It was the news that Bishop Blanchet wanted to establish a foundation in the distant Diocese of Nesqually that her desire to become a missionary as a Sister of Providence was confirmed. Adelaide pleaded to Sister Joseph, “Take me with you.” When Sr. Joseph inquired what Adelaide could do as a missionary, she quickly replied, “I can carry your baggage and I will serve you well.”
Helen Norton’s upbringing and strong faith instilled in her a desire to become a woman religious at the age of 18. When Helen applied to the Sisters of Providence for entrance, Mother Caron, Superior General, felt that Helen needed more life experience so Helen taught English, her native language, at St. Isidore, a Providence school at Longue-Point in Montreal. Soon she received word that she was accepted into the religious community as a missionary for the Northwest. Mother Caron recalled the young Sister Norton stating, “Oh, it does not matter where I may be sent, just so I can become a religious.”
Two days after the councilors’ decision of their admission and appointment as missionaries, Adelaide Theriault and Helen Norton entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Providence as postulants on October 28, 1856. Bishop Bourget gave them their names in religion: Sister Vincent de Paul and Sister Mary of the Precious Blood. Their formation studies would continue in Vancouver under the instruction of Sister Joseph.
Their entrance is recorded in the Council’s ledger:
The 28th of October 1856, Miss Adelaide Theriault, daughter of Antoine Theriault and Adelaide Fremont, born at Kamouraska, Quebec on January 1, 1826, and Miss Marie [sic] Norton, daughter of Owen Norton and Helene Keely, born in New York, October 10, 1838, were admitted with the permission of His Holiness Monsignor Laroque, Superior of the Community and received in the novitiate for the community in the manner prescribed in the ceremonial.
Sister Caron, Superior
Sister Philomene, Secretary
A New Group of Missionary Sisters, Oct. 26, 1856
The Missioning, Oct. 30, 1856
Personnel Folder 131, Sr. Vincent de Paul. Obituary 1908. Translated by Sr. Mary Leopoldine, S.P. Providence Archives, Seattle, Washington.
Registre Délibérations du Conseil et Admission des sujets, Tome I, 1840 à 1858. Archives Historiques Providence, Montreal.
The Institute of Providence: History of the Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor Known as the Sisters of Providence, Sisters of Providence of Montreal, vols. II and V (1949).