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The Congregation’s Great Works in Quebec

Since the birth of the Congregation in 1843, the Sisters of Providence have founded over a hundred institutions in Quebec and opened homes targeting needs in education and health, and providing support for the poor in Canada and abroad. In Quebec, they have established major institutions.

Photo credit: HCSM Foundation

Montreal Sacré-Coeur Hospital

On June 1, 1898, the day of the feast of the Sacred Heart, a group of lay women inaugurated a small hospital to house a dozen people with so-called “incurable” diseases. The Sisters of Providence took charge of the hospital in 1902 and erected a larger building with 375 beds referred to as Hôpital des Incurables.

Destroyed by a serious fire in 1923, the hospital was rebuilt on Gouin Boulevard in Cartierville, and inaugurated under the original name Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal (HSCM).

Under the sisters’ leadership, the hospital was first dedicated to treating tuberculosis, becoming the most important teaching centre in the field of lung disease in Quebec. A department of orthopedics and the first francophone department of thoracic surgery in the country were later added.

HSCM became a general hospital in 1954. The 1970s saw major changes, including the opening of the trauma centre.

In 1973, HSCM became officially affiliated with Université de Montréal for the teaching of medicine and health sciences. That same year, Institut Albert-Prévost merged with HSCM, becoming a pavilion dedicated to psychiatric care.

In 1992, the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux designated the hospital as a tertiary trauma centre for the Island of Montreal and Northwestern Quebec.

At each stage of transformation of Quebec’s healthcare network, the Sisters of Providence remained associated with the work of HSCM. In August 2022, HSCM unveiled a plaque commemorating the important legacy of the Sisters of Providence in founding the hospital.

Montreal’s Institute for Deaf-Mute Girls

The Institute for Deaf-Mute Girls opened in Longue-Pointe, in Montreal’s East End, in 1851. In 1864, it was set up on Saint-Denis Street on a property donated by Côme-Séraphin Cherrier. The institution aimed to give deaf-mute women and girls practical training, allowing them to earn a living and benefit from a Christian education.

In 1911, the institution welcomed its first deaf, dumb and blind students. Up to 1951, the institution educated over 2,700 students. Through specialized training in the field of education for the deaf, staff continually improved their teaching methods, in particular for people born deaf.

The institution also housed deaf and dumb adult women wishing to live in a protected community. They worked in various internal departments, and several chose to embrace religious life.

In the 1960s, the new Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec implemented a policy to integrate disabled students into mainstream classrooms. Deaf students were transferred to the Montreal Catholic School Commission (MCSC). The institution was sold, and the religious and specialized lay staff provided a large part of the new government services for people with various disabilities.

Photo credit: Novelty Manufacturing & Art Co. Ltd , Monique Laferrière (collection)

Saint-Jean-de-Dieu Asylum

Founded in 1873, Saint-Jean-de-Dieu Asylum was the result of an agreement between the government of Quebec and the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence for the care of people with mental illness.

The Sisters of Providence already had a long history of working with the mentally ill. In 1845, Mother Émilie Tavernier-Gamelin began welcoming the mentally ill at the Asile de Providence and, in 1852, at Saint-Isidore farm. In 1863, an annex named Saint-Jean-de-Dieu was built onto a convent belonging to the Sisters located in Montreal’s East End. The construction of Saint-Jean-de-Dieu Asylum began at that site in the 1870s.

In 1897, Saint-Jean-de-Dieu Asylum became an autonomous civic municipality and a canonical parish of the Diocese of Montreal. It housed 183 sisters, 141 lay people, 3 physicians, 2 chaplains and 1,579 patients. Hospital management was kept up to date by visiting comparable institutions in Europe.

Several schools were created at Saint-Jean-de-Dieu, including a nursing school specializing in psychiatry, a school for nursing assistants, a medical teacher training school, the Émilie-Tavernier school (for patients) and a medical technology school. Courses for orderlies were also offered.

In 1975, the Sisters of Providence began to leave Saint-Jean-de-Dieu Asylum following a reorganization of services. The institution adopted the name Hôpital Louis-Hyppolite-Lafontaine in 1976, and then Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal in 2013.

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