The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul began their ministry in Edmonton in 1915. Over the years their ministry grew to include Rosary Hall, St. Mary’s Home, St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital, and a vibrant teaching ministry in twelve Catholic Schools. The Sisters continue to maintain a presence in Edmonton.
Sketches of Rosary Hall, St. Mary’s Home and St. Joseph’s Hospital by Terri Horricks (SPSVP 2002-28-20, 2005-50-2, 2005-50-3) .
Rosary Hall (1915-2012)
In 1913 the newly founded Catholic Women’s League opened a hostel at 543-107th Street in Edmonton to look after immigrant women and girls coming to the city for study or employment. The hostel moved to larger quarters in 1914 and the hostel moved to a third house in March 1915. This house was named Rosary Hall and was managed by a housekeeper with assistance from the Catholic Women’s League.
In 1915 the Sisters of Providence were asked to take charge of Rosary Hall and in October Sr. M. Clement O’Shea, arrived to take up her duties. Sr. M. James Quinn, and Sr. M. Carmelita Kearney joined her in January 1916. The Sisters who worked at the hostel also resided there. Rosary Hall was also home to Sisters who taught at the nearby schools.
In 1924, Rosary Hall moved to its permanent home at the corner of 104th and 100th Streets and in 1926, an addition was built to accommodate 45 more guests. The Canadian Catholic Women’s League continued their association with Rosary Hall until the onset of World War Two.
Sr. Mary Consilii Foley, Sr. Mary Alacoque Scott,Sr. Mary Cosmas Plue, Sr. Mary Constance Stroud, Sr. M. Faustina Mattimoe, Sr. Mary Darina Walsh, and Sr. Mary Agatha Zuzak sitting on the steps of Rosary Hall, ca. 1937. (SPSVPA 014-205.1.1-33)
In 1924 Rosary Hall moved to its permanent location in the old Gariepy House at 104th and 100th Streets. A new wing was added on in 1926 to provide accommodations for 45 guests. (SPSVPA 014-205.1.1-67)
Rosary Hall continued to serve as a home for women and girls until the early 1960s when the mandate of Rosary Hall shifted. The Sisters started to serve the mentally handicapped and women suffering from mental illness. In 1972, Rosary Hall officially became a halfway house for women suffering from severe chronic mental illness and who required assistance in order to function within the community. Rosary Hall provided a secure, stable and supportive living environment for these women including room and board, as well as assistance to residents in learning life skills.
Rosary Hall continued to be operated by the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul until 2012 when the building was sold and the residents were moved to other homes. Sixty-Five sisters served at Rosary Hall from 1915 to 2012.
Sr. Jeannette Filthaut, Sr. Patricia Amyot, Sr. Ellen Murry, Sr. Rita Gleason, Sr. Mary Bernadette, Sr. Avita Kilar and Sr. Diane Brennen outside Rosary Hall in 2011 (SPSVPA 014-205.1.1-66)
St. Mary’s Home (1923-1951)
On April 2, 1923 the Sisters of Providence opened an orphanage for boys called St. Mary’s Home at the request of Archbishop H. O’Leary and in conjunction with the Catholic Women’s League of Edmonton. The orphanage was originally located in a large house in the southern section of the city and could accommodate 56 boys aged three to sixteen.
Between 1934 and 1941, St. Mary’s Home boasted an in house classroom for the education of the boys in Grades 1 through 4. The classroom was staffed by Sisters of Providence and the Edmonton School Board furnished the room and provided the Sisters’ salaries.
In 1941, when the archdiocese decided to sell the building that housed St. Mary’s Home, the orphanage was moved to larger quarters at 6730 128th Avenue where a former fire-hall was retrofitted to accommodate 100 boys.
On August 20, 1951, the Sisters of Providence turned over the administration and management of St. Mary’s Home to the Salesian Fathers, while retaining ownership of the property. In the mid-1950s the Salesian Fathers built St. Mary’s School on the outskirts of the Edmonton and the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul sold the 137th avenue property in 1957. Over 34 Sisters of Providence served at St. Mary’s Home between 1923 and 1951.
The future location of St. Mary’s Home, before the former fire-hall was renovated, 1941. (SPSVPA 014-205.1.2-2)
St. Mary’s Home after the renovations, ca. 1941 (SPSVPA 014-205.1.2-10)
St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital (1927-2001)
In 1927 Archbishop O’Leary of Edmonton contacted the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul in Kingston and asked them to take over the “Old Whyte Block” and transform it into the first “old people’s home” in Edmonton. The new institution opened as the House of Providence of Edmonton. It soon became clear that most of the seniors needed nursing care and on January 6, 1930 with the approval and assistance of the Minister of Health for the province, the home became an official hospital with the name St. Joseph’s Hospital for the Chronically Ill.
Construction of the new wing of St. Joseph’s Hospital for the Chronically Ill. The original hospital is visible at the far right. 1946. (SPSVPA 014-205.1.4-1-A)
A new wing with 150 beds and a chapel officially opened on January 24, 1948, greatly expanding the size of the hospital. In 1948 an epidemic of poliomyelitis broke out in Edmonton and St. Joseph’s Hospital for the Chronically Ill was the first to provide continuing care for the growing number of individuals affected by polio. The hospital devoted an entire floor to the therapy and rehabilitation of polio patients. In 1955, increased demand required additional expansion and two floors were added to the 1948 wing.
In 1955 two floors were added onto the 1948 wing of St. Joseph’s Hospital for the Chronically Ill, ca.1955 (SPSVPA 014-205.1.4-1)
By the late 1950s, the emphasis of the hospital was on rehabilitation and the name was changed to St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital. In 1965, the hospital expanded to include the addition of an auditorium, central storage, new and improved departments for occupational therapy, physiotherapy, dental care and recreation. A new residence for the Sisters of Providence working at the hospital was also built in 1965.
It became apparent in the late 1980s that a new facility was required as the old building was no longer adequate. A new property was purchased at 107 Street and 29th Avenue and a new hospital building was opened on November 26, 1993. The sisters serving at the hospital moved into apartments in Edmonton when the new hospital opened. The old Hospital building was sold and renovated as a condominium development.
The second St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital, Edmonton, 2001. (SPSVPA 014-205.1.4-48)
The official transfer of sponsorship of St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital from the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul to the Alberta Catholic Health Corporation occurred in March 2001. Public ceremonies were held in May of that same year. Several sisters continued to serve at the Hospital until 2009. Over 90 Sisters of Providence graced the halls of St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital between 1927 and 2009, serving as hospital administrators to pastoral care workers and everything in between.
The Catholic Health Alliance of Canada has been digitizing books celebrating Catholic hospitals in Canada as part of their Catholic Hospitals Digital History Books Project. Please take a look at the digitized commemorative booklets for St. Joseph’s Hospital.
From 1926 to 1978, nine sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul taught in twelve Edmonton Catholic schools, including Annunciation School, Cartier-McGee School, Little Flower School, Sacred Heart School, St. Anne’s School, St. Cecilia’s Junior High School, St. Francis School, St. James School, St. John’s School, St. Peter’s School, St. Rose’s School, and St. Vincent’s school.
The teaching sisters lived at Rosary Hall and St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital. After spending the workday teaching, they spent the evenings and weekends actively involved with ministry and life at Rosary Hall and St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Over the years sisters in Edmonton also shared their talents through a variety of individual ministries including parish work, spiritual direction, facilitation, ministry to the poor, teaching music, volunteering at nursing homes and senior centres and helping immigrants.