As we are commemorating 175 years since the foundation of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM), it is an occasion to rediscover the courage, the determination and the vision of their foundress, Eulalie Durocher (Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher) and her companions.
These women were completely committed to the mission of education of children, particularly of young country girls deprived of access to an education. Even at that time of humble beginnings, the Sisters were convinced that these young women would have a major impact on the family and on society. They recognized the importance of feminine leadership and of education as a catalyst for social change. An archival exposition entitled Educate to Liberate, open until January 29, 2019, highlights the diversity of the SNJM commitment that goes far beyond the ministry of teaching in schools.
A significant presence in Montreal
Since the beginning, Mother Marie-Rose Durocher was attentive to the needs of her time and place, to the here and now. She eagerly collaborated with those living around her. This collaboration allowed the Congregation to expand, first beyond the St. Lawrence River and then even beyond the Quebec border to other provinces and countries.
In 1860, the Congregation founded its first boarding school in Montreal, Hochelaga Convent, followed by many other schools in subsequent years. The Sisters answered the calls of bishops, parishes and school boards to work in francophone and anglophone schools throughout the island of Montreal. By 1915, Sisters were teaching in Charlemagne and Saint-Paul l’Ermite, and by 1916 in Lachenaie. Through the years, they ministered in 41 francophone parishes and 8 anglophone parishes in the diocese of Montreal.
Young women from these various milieus were inspired by the Sisters’ apostolic and spiritual commitment and they joined the community to bring Mother Marie-Rose’s dream to fruition. Eventually lay people became “associates” committed to the charism and spirituality of the Congregation, and continuing in their turn the educative mission of the Congregation.
Always on mission
As years have gone by, society has evolved and the SNJM mission has adapted to these changes. Without completely leaving the ministry of teaching, Sisters committed themselves to pastoral work in parishes and in schools, and to spiritual and psychological accompaniment. They also took social initiatives, forming coalitions with organizations, associations and other religious congregations to combat human trafficking, to protect water and the environment, and to contribute to the welcoming of migrants and refugees.
Throughout the SNJM history, they have been enriched by their contact with collaborators. Their works continue through these people and through our millions of former students. Let's hope that the 175th anniversary of the community will offer everyone an opportunity to celebrate their history of participation in the educative mission of the Church.
All are most welcome to the activities scheduled to take place during the rest of the year.