Where did it all begin?
The Sisters of St. Joseph of London, Ontario trace their roots to the first foundation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Le Puy, France in 1650. The community was founded by a French Jesuit priest, Father Jean-Pierre Médaille and its first members cared for the sick, and ministered to the poor, the aged, the orphans, and the imprisoned. They also instructed young girls in spiritual matters.
In 1789, the upheaval caused by the French Revolution forced the members of the community to disperse. Five Sisters of St. Joseph were guillotined, and another five awaited the same fate in prison until they were freed upon the fall of Robespierre. One of these freed Sisters, Mother St. John Fontbonne reorganized the Community members at Lyons in 1807.
During the subsequent years, the Sisters formed more communities in France, and in 1821, they established a foundation in Italy. In 1836, Mother St. John sent Sisters to St. Louis, Missouri where Bishop Rosati had requested assistance for deaf mutes in his diocese. Their first convent was located at Carondelet near St. Louis. From there, the Sisters journeyed to Philadelphia in 1847 to establish their foundation in the United States.
In 1851, five Sisters established a community in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. From this foundation in Toronto, five other communities were developed in Canada: Hamilton in 1852, London in 1868, Peterborough in 1890, Pembroke in 1921 and Sault Ste. Marie in 1936. Each of these groups has its own motherhouse and administration, and in 1966 they formed the Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada.