160 years ago, four young Sisters left their Quebec convents and embarked on an arduous two-month journey to the frontier outpost of Victoria. Arriving on June 5, 1858, four years before the city was incorporated, they rolled up their habit sleeves and got to work, quickly transforming a small, rundown shack into a rustic one-room school where they welcomed all children, from Métis orphans to the daughters of Governor James Douglas.
The Sisters of St. Ann grew, and in the years following their pioneering beginning they opened and operated dozens of schools throughout BC and the Pacific Northwest. They also opened 10 hospitals and St. Joseph’s School of Nursing in Victoria. Their mission has always focused on serving the poor and marginalized, and throughout their long history they’ve championed social justice and human rights. The remaining Sisters, who are now elderly, continue their good work to this day, but they are also keeping their eye to the future by donating to organizations that align with their mission, including the Knowledge Endowment. Their reasons for doing so were graciously outlined in a letter that accompanied the gift: “Like you, we are strong believers in lifelong learning, the need for informed communities and the need for diverse points of view respectfully presented from both local and global perspectives. We also believe strongly in the need for public broadcasting. Our hope is that this contribution will encourage you to continue doing what you do so well.”
Photos: “The Big Catch”, [195-], used with permission of the Sisters of St. Ann Archives, Victoria, BC PO123. Inset: Sisters Judi Morin, Marie Zarowny and Joyce Harris, Sisters of St. Ann Province Co-Leaders.