History of the US Province of the DHS part 2


In the early twentieth century, in the northeastern part of the United States, the number of French-speaking people was increasing as many French-Canadians left impoverished farms in the province of Québec to come to find work in the U.S. The Industrial Revolution had blossomed with factories, especially textile mills which had been erected along the rivers of New England. This is where the Canadians sought work, bringing with them their language, customs, and Catholic faith. Thus, French Canadian parishes were established. Eventually pastors began constructing parish schools and seeking French-speaking religious as teachers.

Early Sisters

Bishop Tierney of the Diocese of Hartford, CT was ready to welcome “six Sisters provided they knew English well.” Six Daughters were chosen to come to the U.S., but only one spoke English. The Sisters who courageously answered the call were: Sisters Jean d’Avila Jain, Francis Marie Harscouet, Thérèse des Anges Sourin, Ste. Armelle LeBer, Yves de Blois Le Gallou, and Ste. Marie Rault.  After receiving the blessing from Bishop Morelle and the farewells of their own Sisters, the six set sail from Le Légué in Brittany for Le Havre on Tuesday, November 25, 1902. On Saturday, November 29, the Sisters set out across the Atlantic Ocean on “La Lorraine” and arrived in New York Harbor on December 7, 1902. On the following day, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Sister pioneers traveled to Hartford to be welcomed by Bishop Tierney and Mother Fabian, RSM. Hospitality was provided by the Sisters of Mercy for the next several months.

Early Sisters

The second group of Daughters arrived on March 23, 1903 and traveled to Buffalo where they remained long enough to get acquainted with the American language and way of life. Then, in July the Sisters set out for Swanton, VT in order to staff the parish school. On May 8, 1903, four more DHS arrived in the U.S. and headed for Fall River, MA  for which Bishop Harkins of the Providence Diocese had requested “Sisters who would visit the sick in their homes and would run nurseries or havens for the children of working mothers.”  (Dion, 15). The house in Fall River became the first DHS community in the United States; however, by June, 1903 Bishop Tierney also provided a house for the Sisters at 28 Charter Oak Place in Hartford, CT.

During all this time the process of settling into a new world was filled with the difficulty of learning a new language and new customs. This, along with the separation from their homeland and families, created considerable hardship for the  French Sisters. The weather also was a source of suffering as well since the newcomers were very unprepared for the New England winter. But as time passed, the Sisters adapted to their new lives and became involved in various ministries such as classroom teaching and nursing. Some also offered personal lessons in  music, embroidery, sewing and French. More and more Sisters arrived from France; new foundations were begun. The seeds of the American province had been planted and were producing fruit.

Early History

Your comments and questions will be welcomed by the author of this series Sr. Matian St. Marie at marianst.marie@gmail.com



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