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Journey to a Mission 

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


5. The Missioning, October 30, 1856

No sooner was the date of departure set than preparations for the journey began. When it became publicly known that the mission was accepted, response from clergy and friends was mixed. Many could not see the necessity of this remote mission and their congratulations were less than wholehearted. Others came and encouraged the missionaries. Monsieur Billandèle, Superior of the Seminary of St. Sulpice, inspired them saying, “You are truly the Sisters of Providence since in your generosity, you start without knowing whether you will have any roof over you save the blue vault of heaven.” Nonetheless, the sisters received many visitors who brought gifts to establish the mission, such as relics for veneration and books for their spiritual reading and library.

The journey the sisters were about to undertake was long and dangerous. At a gathering at the motherhouse on October 30, the sisters received their mandate. Jean Charles Prince, Bishop of St. Hyacinthe and uncle of Sister Praxedes of Providence, placed the mandate in the hand of Sister Joseph, their Superior. He blessed the five sisters saying,

Go, my dear Daughters, to make the Holy Trinity honored. You are happy to make a sacrifice in favor of that poor, forsaken land. Were there but one soul to be saved, you should not hesitate. Fear nothing. The Angels of those poor people will accompany you.

Then addressing his niece, Sister Praxedes, he said, “My dear niece, I am happy to offer you at this moment in the hope that, through you, I shall contribute to the mission of the Bishop [Blanchet] who has suffered so much for that country.”

After this ceremony, Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal and founder of the religious community, gave each of the sisters a small wooden cross made from a tree planted in France by St. Vincent de Paul, a principal patron of the Sisters of Providence. Before leaving the sisters, he read to them additional text of their missioning. It was at this time that Sister Joseph received the extension to her name - "of the Sacred Heart" - by which she is so well known today.

 
 The original decree (translated in this article) by Bishop of Montreal, Ignace Bourget, blessing the new “Community of Oregon” and transferring governance to the Bishop of Nesqually, A.M.A. Blanchet.

To our dear Daughters, Sisters Pariseau, in religion, Sister Joseph; Lamothe, Sister Praxedes; Collin, Sister Blandine; Sister Theriault and Sister Norton of the Institute of the Sisters of Charity, Administrations of the House of Providence of this city, Greetings and Benedictions in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

As already four years ago, it hath pleased our venerable brother, the most illustrious and the most Reverend A.M. Blanchet, Bishop of Nesqually, to request five of your sisters to go to his new diocese for the purpose of founding a House of Providence for the care of the poor and the education of both the Indian and the white children, and having deigned to cast his eyes upon your community for the care and guidance of this good work;

And as your community, after having accepted the repeated offers of this good Bishop with lively gratitude for the really too honorable preference he has manifested for it, has been chosen to carry out his most charitable and benevolent designs;

And, finally, as it has seemed to us that it is the will of God for you to accept this foundation for the greater honor of His Divine Majesty, and the salvation of the thousands of souls who are being lost in the immense Territory of Oregon;

The Holy Name of God invoked, we have ordained, enacted, and decreed: ordaining, enacting, and decreeing that which follows:

1. We permit you to leave your House in Montreal to go and take the care and administration of the one to be founded in his diocese by the said Lord Bishop of Nesqually. You will have for Sister Servant, Sister Joseph, who will henceforth bear the name of Sister Joseph of the Sacred Heart, so that you may always remember that it will be through the Divine Heart of Jesus that the new foundation will labor successfully for the propagation of the faith and the solid establishment of the various devotions in use in this Community.

2. This new Community shall be governed according to the rules and customs established in your Mother House, and it will be dependent thereupon in temporal and in spiritual matters.

3. Nevertheless, the said Community shall be under the entire jurisdiction of the said Lord Bishop of Nesqually and of his successors, to be governed in all things, both by him and the superiors and directors whom he may be pleased to appoint, according to the rules and constitutions established, or to be hereafter established by the Mother Community of Montreal.

4. We permit the said Community of Oregon to open a novitiate, whenever it shall please the said Lord Bishop of Nesqually, to train therein to the religious life and to the practice of the works of charity, the subjects who may present themselves, with the good spirit and the good will which characterize a true vocation.

5. Lastly, we bless you, our very dear daughters, in the name of Our Lord; and we humbly beseech Him to direct you in all your ways that your labors may turn to the greater glory of religious, and to the relief of all corporal and spiritual miseries. We place you under the special protection of Our Lady of Seven Dolors, recommending you to work without ceasing to propagate the devotion to her Most Holy and Immaculate Heart overwhelmed with sorrows.

We confide you to the protection of St. Joseph, the Father of all good communities, and to the care of the Holy Angels and of your patron saints. Increase and multiply, our very dear daughters, for the greater good of souls.

Given in our Episcopal palace, Montreal, Canada, this thirtieth day of October, eighteen hundred and fifty-six, under our seal and sign and the countersign of our undersecretary.

[Signed]
† Ignace, Bishop of Montreal
Monsignor, P. LeBlanc, Priest, undersecretary


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Entrance of the Postulants, Oct. 28, 1856

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 A Vow of Perfection, Nov. 1, 1856


 Sources:

Bishop Ignace Bourget Mandate, 1856. Provincial Administration Collection. 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).