Matilda Marsh was born in England on August 1, 1878 to John Marsh and Mary Gilbert. She was brought to Canada by Mrs. Lacy of the Catholic Children’s Protection Society of Liverpool, aboard the Polynesian steamship and arrived in Quebec City on May 21, 1888. The 10 day journey was probably an ordeal considering the Polynesian steamship was nicknamed “Rolling Polly”. Mrs. Lacy brought a party of approximately 100 children, including Matilda, to the House of Providence on May 22, 1888. Matilda stayed at the House of Providence before being placed with a guardian on May 25, 1888. She returned to the House of Providence from February 20th, 1889 to April 11th, 1889.
Not much is known about Matilda’s early life in Kingston. We do not know the name of the guardian she was placed with in May 1888, why she returned to the House of Providence in February 1889 or where she lived after April 1889. We do know that starting in the early to mid-1890’s Matilda worked for the Sisters of Providence at St. Vincent de Paul Hospital in Brockville for approximately 6 years where she was known as Mary Marsh.
In December 1897 Matilda left St. Vincent de Paul Hospital in Brockville and returned to the House of Providence in Kingston to enter the Sisters of Providence as a tertiary. Tertiaries were auxiliary members of the congregation who performed domestic labour. The congregation had a tertiary program from 1895 to 1907 when the program was slowly phased out and the tertiaries were encouraged to enter the Novitiate. Matilda received the habit on March 14, 1899 and took her first vows as a tertiary on November 18, 1900. Known as Sr. Mary, Matilda returned to St. Vincent de Paul Hospital in Brockville in 1903 where she worked in the Laundry until 1907.
On November 21, 1907 eight tertiaries, including Sr. Mary, entered the novitiate to begin the process of becoming professed members of the congregation. On April 24, 1909 Sr. Mary and the other former tertiaries took their first vows as Sisters of Providence. Upon making her first vows, Matilda took the religious name Sr. Mary George. During her 42 years as a Sister she served at the House of Providence in Kingston, St. Mary’s of Lake Orphanage in Kingston, St. Vincent de Paul Hospital in Brockville, St. Francis de Sales Hospital in Smiths Falls and at the congregation’s convents in Glen Nevis, Arnprior, and Gananoque.
After her death on February 3, 1949 at age 70, the General Secretary wrote that Sr. Mary George “was most devoted to the poor and had a motherly interest in the little orphans, always ready to do them kindness and attend to their needs.” She was also known for her beautiful voice and “in her young days sang in the choir delighting her audience while singing the praises of God”. Matilda Marsha spent 52 years in the congregation, 10 as a tertiary and 42 as a Sister of Providence.