Sisters of St. Ann

The Institute of the Sisters of Saint Ann was founded in Quebec in 1848 by Marie Esther Blondin (b. 1809). Earlier, in 1833, Miss Blondin had established a school for rural children in the village of Vaudreuil, west of Montreal. Her school, which employed a teacher for English and a teacher for music, was one of the most progressive schools in the district. After fifteen years of able administration, wishing to dedicate her life more fully to the cause of rural education, she applied to the bishop of Quebec, Bishop Bourget, for permission to establish a missionary order. Permission was granted in May 1848. The order was based in Lachine and initially consisted of six members, with the founder, Esther Blondin, taking the name Sister Mary Ann.

The Institute of the Sisters of Saint Ann established schools and provided teachers from sea to sea in Canada, in the United States, in Alaska and the Yukon, in Japan and in Haiti. At its peak in the 1950s, the order embraced over two thousand members, world-wide.

The Sister of St. Ann operated an extensive range of facilities, including hospitals and nursing schools. Some of their convents were charitable institutes: they took in boarders, cared for destitute children, gave them a basic education and placed them in employment. Other facilities became prestigious boarding schools. Select Schools such as Little Flower Academy (1927) in Vancouver maintained high academic standards and were patronized by distinguished families from far and wide in the Pacific northwest. The Sisters of St. Ann also introduced the first Montessori Schools in the province (at Queenswood, in Victoria, in 1969).

Bishop Modeste Demers first met the Sisters of St. Ann at Lachine in 1856. The order then consisted of 45 members, all of whom volunteered to "go west" and help the bishop was his missionary work. Ultimately, four nuns were chosen for the task: Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, Sister Mary Angele, Sister Mary Lumena, and Sister Mary Conception. After an arduous, two month journey, they reached Victoria on 5 June 1858. Two days later, they started teaching classes in a log-cabin on Humboldt Street. The cabin was the first St. Ann's Schoolhouse. The following year, twenty-two year old Sister Mary Providence arrived in the colony and assumed her duties as Superior of the order of the Sisters of St. Ann.

Contributed by Usha Rautenbach, July 2001.