Mother Mary Providence (Mary Ellen McTucker)

Sister Mary Providence was twenty-two years old when she arrived in Victoria in 1859 to join the first four Sisters of St. Ann as their Superior. For nearly half a century, she devoted her rich gifts of heart and mind to the advancement of education in British Columbia.

Born in Ireland, highly educated and experienced in travel by the age of sixteen when her family emigrated to Montreal, she entered the sisterhood in 1853 with the belief that "A woman¹s life is not limited; life will be mostly what women truly wish it to be."

From the first, facing so little to work with, she proved that high expectations will bear astonishing fruit in educating with passion. Her results seem to have been swift, in social graces, advanced academic and basic practical education, music and theatre. The public outdoor examinations of St. Ann's students became an annual highlight in Victoria - a dramatic and joyous showmanship was clearly one of her many skills.

The St. Ann's Convents of British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska were under the jurisdiction of Mother Mary Providence for over thirty years, from 1859 to 1881 and from 1892 to 1893. (She received the title of "Mother" on being named Sister Vicar of the convents of the West in 1866.)

Her ability, wisdom, and generosity were known from Alaska to California. In her fiftieth year of service in 1903, Mother Mary Providence, "though she would have been glad to let the event go unnoticed," had to accept the homage of the City of Victoria. She received her guests, from the humble to the distinguished, and listened to praise, song and music with her usual calm dignity. In the pioneer period her keen insight into the needs of the times and her intuitive foresight assured the continuity and example of schools well-run.

Contributed by Usha Rautenbach, July 2001.

Source: Sister Mary Margaret [née Edith Down] A Century of Service, 1858-1958: A History of the Sisters of Saint Ann and Their Contribution to Education in British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska,Victoria: Morris Printing, 1966.