Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon
During the great missionary movement of the 19thcentury, a request was made in 1906 by Father Joseph Forest of Jackman, Maine, for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon, France, to come to the Diocese of Portland.
With the Bishop’s approval, eight sisters made their way to Jackman where they would staff a parochial school and a girls’ boarding school. At the time of their arrival, there were approximately 80 families in Jackman, mostly of Canadian origin. Everyone was overjoyed with the presence of the Sisters who would assume the education of their children. A second group of Sisters came into Maine in 1909 – this time in South Berwick.
The ministry was fruitful in Jackman and South Berwick. In both places, the Sisters staffed a parochial school and an academy for high school girls where many young women were prepared academically, spiritually and socially to face the challenges of life. It was within these institutions that religious vocations flourished.
In 1913, a novitiate was established in South Berwick to prepare young women for religious life. In 1949, the novitiate was moved to Auburn and, as vocations increased, a novitiate was built in Winslow in 1965.
In 1926, the Sisters went to Holy Family parish in Lewiston, a strong Franco-American community, to teach in the parish school and help children maintain their native language. The education apostolate expanded by staffing schools in Chisholm, Auburn, Winslow and with the opening of St. Joseph Child Care in the Lewiston-Auburn area in 1949. The Sisters became known primarily for their education apostolate in the diocese.
The Sisters in Maine maintained their link with the Motherhouse in Lyon, France, through frequent correspondence with major superiors as well as the regular canonical visits from the Superior General or one of her councilors. In 1958, Maine became a Province of the Congregation.
In 1954, a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Center was opened in Dexter to provide religious education for the youth. In 1952, a tremendous endeavor was the opening and staffing of a small community hospital in Jackman. This was soon followed by the opening of Mount St. Joseph Nursing Home in Waterville, in 1966
Sr. Claire with Mount resident
Presently, Mount St. Joseph remains an integral part of the healthcare community in Waterville, having an excellent reputation as a wholistic care facility. The Province also subsidizes Living Water Spiritual Center, a place providing peace and intimacy for those seeking the Divine.
Sr. Claudette Poulin teaching a group of Hispanic women
The academies, the parochial schools, the hospital and the novitiate are no longer and St. Joseph Child Care was passed on to Catholic Charities – ME in 2001. However, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon (Winslow, ME) continue to help meet the varied needs of God’s people in Maine, New Hampshire and California.