For 175 years, Soeurs de Sainte-Croix have been giving back to communities in Quebec and around the world, an achievement that was celebrated with a ceremony last month at Eglise Saint-Laurent.
After one-and-three-quarters of a century, the order still have their “raison d’être,” according to Sister Mariette Thibodeau, treasurer on the administrative council. “[It’s] our call to the world that human beings are most important, not just money and pleasure—the material.”
Education is at the forefront of their mission, though not always in the traditional way. “When we say education, we mean in whatever form it takes,” said Thibodeau. “A mother is an educator, but not necessarily a teacher.”
In this light, missions in Haïti, West Africa and Burkina Faso—among others—aim to help women take their lives into their own hands. In Peru, for example, Sisters help women from the countryside get education in the city. “It’s education to liberate people and raise them up.”
In Montreal, the sisters are involved with various community organisations, like Petites-Mains, that aims to help women who immigrated to Canada. The group fights isolation through French courses and job placement. One year from now, a daycare will be open in the same building so that their children close by while learning. The Sisters are also the force behind nonprofits D-Trois-Pierres and Maisonette des Parents.
Some 62 years ago, when Thibodeau joined the Soeurs de Ste-Croix congregation at age 19, there was close to 2,000 sisters worldwide. Today there are 230 in Quebec, and about 500 around the world. No new recruits have joined for the last 15 years.
“It can be difficult for a young person to integrate, since we are all older,” said Thibodeau. “Society doesn’t have these same values, religion and Christianity are not their primary concern,” she added. Though she remains optimistic about the future.
Even if people are not working with the church, there are many groups that support helping others. “People are still working for the same goal: look at the World Social Forum, it’s people from all around the world working for it to be more just and for people to be at the centre of government decisions.”
In honour of the 175th anniversary of the Soeurs de Ste-Croix, an exhibit of their history is on display at 900, Cote-Vertu Blvd. To make an appointment call 514 747-6032.
After one month of travelling by boat, the Soeurs de Ste-Croix arrived in Quebec from Mans, France, in May 1847. Founded by Father Basil Moreau, the sisters were a congregation dedicated to teaching. He is the founder of three branches of the sisters, that would eventually become independent of each other: The Soeurs de la Ste-Croix in Indiana, United States, and les Marianites de Ste-Croix in Mans.
Education and the arts—music and painting—were always at the forefront of the congregation. By the end of the 19th century, more than 10,000 students were being taught by the congregation, that had more than 400 sisters in 33 facilities in Canada and the United States.
The sisters have, either in past or present, had missions in the United States, Haiti, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Rome, Mali, Burkina Faso and soon in Vietnam.