The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul taught at St. Gregory’s School in Picton Ontario from 1943 to 1978 and were actively involved in parish ministry at St. Gregory’s Parish, Picton from 1943 to 2001.
At the request of the pastor, Rev. J.A. Meehan, four Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul arrived at St. Gregory’s Convent in Picton on Sept. 2, 1943 to take over St. Gregory’s separate school. These first sisters were: Sister Mary Austin Mugan, Superior; Sister Mary Gregory Kennedy, housekeeper and church organist; Sister Mary Inez Manion, music teacher and sacristan; and Sister Mary Berna LeSage, principal and teacher. From the beginning the pastor and parishioners of St. Gregory’s parish were involved with and supportive of the Sisters. This was tangibly seen in their assistance in furnishing the convent and in their generous gifts of food to the sisters over all the years they were there.
St. Gregory’s School, Picton (SPSVPA 014-216.3.2-1).
The school was a one room school house until 1944 when the large single room was partitioned to provide two classrooms and a second teacher, Sister Mary Faustina was sent to Picton. Over the next thirty-two years there was a Sister Principal who also taught the senior grades, and another Sister who taught the junior/primary grades. The Sister music teacher taught music at the school until 1969, as well as having private music students. As the school grew, and especially after the addition of 1955, lay teachers were employed as well as the Sisters. The first lay principal of the school was appointed in 1976. The last Sister to teach in the school, Sister Joan Whittingham, left at the end of the school year in 1978.
Left to right: Sister Mary Fidelma, Sr. Mary Thrasilla, Sr. Judith Lee, Sr. Marie Dundon at St. Gregory’s Convent, Picton (SPSVPA 014-216.3.1-2).
Sketch of St. Gregory’s Convent, Picton by Terri Horricks (SPSVPA 2002-28-8).
In addition to their work at the school, the a sister taught music out of the convent music studio, and the Sisters were involved in a number of parish activities, including working as sacristans, organists, choir directors, liturgical directors and pastoral visitors. The Sisters helped the parishioners form a Parish Council and continued to have a representative on the council during their time in Picton. The music teachers trained choirs that won awards and accolades at local Music Festivals and at larger regional Festivals in Kingston. They presented school concerts and developed adult choirs for liturgical worship. A Sister was parish secretary from 1983 till 2001. The Sisters also assisted with parish programs and provided catechesis for children attending the public schools. They trained altar servers, and oversaw the Sodality of Our Lady and the Legion of Mary and helped the Pastor in whatever way they could.
Visiting the local seniors’ and Nursing Homes was an important part of their ministry particularly in the later years. They were often required to conduct prayer service and distribute the Eucharist in these homes. For a number of years from 1977 to 1981 a Sister visited Prince Edward Heights Home for people with mental disabilities.
Official farewell for Sisters of Providence on September 19, 2001, St. Gregory’s School, Picton. (SPSVPA 014-216.3.1-7).
After the sisters stopped teaching in the school, the sisters maintained an active ministry in Picton until 2001. A sister continued teaching music privately until 1997 and the Sisters remained actively involved with the parish until 2001 when the convent closed. After the convent closed one sister, living in Belleville, drove to Picton regularly to visit Senior’s Homes and attend Legion of Mary meetings for a number of years. In all, fifty-one Sisters lived and served in Picton over the course of fifty-eight years.
Sisters who served in Picton
List of Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul who served from 1943 to 2001 in Picton, Ontario by school year.