Founded in the healing mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Hamilton, St. Joseph’s Health System (SJHS) was established in 1991 to meet the challenges of the changing environment for the delivery of health and social services, and takes pride in a system-wide commitment to caring for the whole person: body, mind and spirit.
Regardless of faith or culture, the one characteristic our people share is a deep belief in the values our founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Hamilton instilled in our organization: that it is an honour to serve – and in particular to ensure that those most vulnerable and marginalized have access to compassionate, high quality care.
The first Sisters arrived in Hamilton in 1852 and began to work for the poor and needy residents of this growing and important trade centre. For the Sisters, it was an honour to serve others, and, with the onset of a cholera epidemic, the Sisters health care mission began in earnest. Working in railway sheds near the Hamilton harbour, they risked their lives to care for the sick and dying victims of the deadly disease.
Today, we are one of the largest corporations in Canada devoted to health care. Our member organizations are known for genuine compassion and caring, both locally and around the world. Each of the organizations offer services according to their strengths, from acute care, long-term care, and community care, to rehabilitation, hospice, community outreach, and mental health. SJHS is also a well-recognized leader for innovation in models of patient centred integrated care at each stage of the patient experience.
This sweeping history explores the first hundred years (1851 to 1951) of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.
In 1851, a young Frenchwoman, Antoinette Fontbonne (Sister Mary Delphine) – a pioneer in founding transatlantic missions in Philadelphia and Missouri for France’s Lyon Sisters of St. Joseph – agreed to begin a third foundation in Toronto. The need was great: many children of Irish famine refugees there had been abandoned and were homeless. That October, Fontbonne and three Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Canada West. By the mid-20th century, the legacy of these four Sisters included a combined membership of three thousand women, supporting an impressive network of schools, hospitals and social work institutions.
Wide Sleeves is a rich historical panorama documenting the process by which the Sisters of St. Joseph separated into six congregations through their own mission outreach and through bishops who needed their help in various dioceses. The book’s main purpose, however, is the story of the Sisters’ mission efforts among Canadians in the first one hundred years – efforts to educate, to heal the sick and to care for those who were physically and spiritually in need. Their particular charismatic journey is the single factor distinguishing the Sisters of St. Joseph from the thousands of other women religious in Canada serving the same charitable purposes with zeal and generosity. Over the decades, their work in health care, education and offering shelter to those in need across Canada touched countless lives and demonstrated in tangible ways the Sisters’ love for Jesus and their ability to see him in those they served.