On a mission to safeguard faith and language?

Educating to liberate and transform

The lack of a uniform framework for girls’ education is similar across North America. In both the United States and other Canadian provinces, there is little interest in investing in girls’ education.

As in Quebec, there are primary and secondary schools without the benefit of a framework and regulations to ensure an equal quality of education. Here again, schooling and access to university are mainly reserved for boys from wealthier families.

In addition, the difficult living conditions in the United States and in certain regions of Canada are causing an influx of requests to religious congregations well established in Quebec. The needs were social, academic, material and spiritual. While Protestantism was widespread, Catholic settlers wanted to obtain services in their religion in order to maintain it.

The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) are thus called to answer a call in Portland, Oregon. They founded their first American mission there in 1859, only 16 years after their foundation in Longueuil. In 1864-65, a new mission was created in the state of New York. Then, in 1868, the missions in Key West, Florida and in Oakland, California followed.

The situation was also repeated elsewhere in Canada where SNJM Sisters went to Windsor, Ontario in 1864 to teach the poorest girls. Ten years later, a group of SNJM sisters left for Winnipeg, Manitoba. They would carry out the same mission.

The number of young students is increasing everywhere as parents want to offer a complete education, from science to music, French and English. This is one of the reasons why there are so many requests for more and more nuns.

It must be said that when the SNJMs were asked by bishops or parishes to teach children, they were generally housed in a building belonging to the parish and were responsible for maintaining it. Since the salaries paid to the nuns were not sufficient to support them, they opened boarding schools. The income from the boarding schools supported the expenses of the parish schools, thus ensuring free education for the poorest children, as Mother Marie-Rose had wished.

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