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Religion Growth

Wide Sleeves

The Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada 1851-1951

by (author) Veronica O'Reilly

with Joan Driscoll

Initial publish date
Sep 2023
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

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This sweeping history explores the first hundred years (1851 to 1951) of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.

In 1851, a young Frenchwoman, Antoinette Fontbonne (Sister Mary Delphine) – a pioneer in founding transatlantic missions in Philadelphia and Missouri for France’s Lyon Sisters of St. Joseph – agreed to begin a third foundation in Toronto. The need was great: many children of Irish famine refugees there had been abandoned and were homeless. That October, Fontbonne and three Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Canada West. By the mid-20th century, the legacy of these four Sisters included a combined membership of three thousand women, supporting an impressive network of schools, hospitals and social work institutions.

Wide Sleeves is a rich historical panorama documenting the process by which the Sisters of St. Joseph separated into six congregations through their own mission outreach and through bishops who needed their help in various dioceses. The book’s main purpose, however, is the story of the Sisters’ mission efforts among Canadians in the first one hundred years – efforts to educate, to heal the sick and to care for those who were physically and spiritually in need. Their particular charismatic journey is the single factor distinguishing the Sisters of St. Joseph from the thousands of other women religious in Canada serving the same charitable purposes with zeal and generosity. Over the decades, their work in health care, education and offering shelter to those in need across Canada touched countless lives and demonstrated in tangible ways the Sisters’ love for Jesus and their ability to see him in those they served.

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Veronica O’Reilly, csj, who began writing this history, was a teacher and principal with a PhD in English and Irish literature from the University of Toronto; she received the Order of Ontario in 1991 and the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals for her work. She had many leadership roles within the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.

Joan Driscoll, csj, who took up the project after Sister Veronica’s death, has a BA in English and an MA from the University of Toronto, as well as a Diploma in Spiritual Theology from Regis College in Toronto, an MA in Mission Studies from Saint Paul University in Ottawa, and a High School Specialist Certificate in English.