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Home > Welcome > Our History

Our History

Today’s Sisters of Providence originated from another community of religious women, the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Two Sisters from the Canadian community approached Reverend Patrick J. Harkins, pastor of Holyoke’s St. Jerome’s Church, in September 1873 asking permission to solicit funds from his parishioners. Granting their request, he in turn asked the Sisters to petition their superiors to send others from their community to establish a Holyoke mission. He wanted the new mission to address the needs of the hundreds of poor Irish and Scottish immigrants and mill workers living in Holyoke.

On November 7, 1873, four Sisters arrived to establish the Holyoke mission. Within a week they accepted the first orphan to their House of Providence and it was not long before city officials were sending the needy and infirm to them for care and shelter.

Over the next 15 years, the Sisters of Providence, under the leadership of Mother Mary of Providence, established 20 works of charity. By her death in 1943, the Sisters had made sharp inroads in meeting the social needs of Western and Central Massachusetts. Their ministries included several hospitals and nursing schools, an orphanage, nursing homes, a residence for working girls and a home for unwed mothers. Many other Sisters of Providence-sponsored social services also aided the poor and needy.

In the 1950s, the need to rebuild many of the institutions operated by the Sisters was a major concern. Some buildings were more than 50 years old, while others needed to be expanded or modernized. During these same years the community took steps to provide the advanced education the Sisters needed in order to assume significant roles within these modernized, sophisticated health and human service agencies.

In 1956, the Sisters expanded their mission by responding to a request from Bishop Joseph Waters, who invited them to open a small rural hospital in Murphy, North Carolina. Ten years later they answered a second call to serve in the South, this time by assuming management of St. Joseph of the Pines Hospital in Southern Pines, North Carolina.


In the 1960s, the Congregation responded to the Second Vatican Council’s call for renewal of religious life. There was a readiness among the Sisters to let go of the stability of an ordered way of life and to attend to the changing needs of people in contemporary society. Gradually they adapted traditional ministries and embraced new works. They also modified their lifestyles to meet the demands of the times.

Throughout the 1970s, the Sisters reflected upon and re-evaluated their sense of identity as religious women and as a community. They also worked to revitalize and to articulate their new understanding of the founding charism and mission.

By 1980, global issues such as hunger, poverty, discrimination, pollution and the potential for nuclear holocaust prompted the Sisters to focus on issues of social justice and to discern how their charism and call – “to reveal the mystery of Providence” – could affect the modern world. Over a period of three years they drafted their present Constitution, which articulates the community’s renewed sense of charism and mission “to communicate hope to those in need through ministries of healing.”

In 1981, the Sisters decided on a corporate restructuring of their sponsored institutions through full collaboration with the laity. At the same time, their lay Associate Program began to grow.

In 1992, the Sisters celebrated their 100th anniversary as an independent diocesan community.

Today, they sponsor the Sisters of Providence Health System -- with health care facilities in Western Massachusetts, Providence Ministries for the Needy in Holyoke and Genesis Spiritual Life Center in Westfield. Drawing on their rich heritage of compassionate concern for the poor and an undaunted trust in Providence, they stand at the dawn of the new millennium rooted in the past and open to the future.

For more information please feel free to contact us.


 
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