The Sisters of Providence
Tel: 01522 540894
Who are we?
As Sisters of Providence, inspired by the Holy Spirit and encouraged by the inspiration of our founders, we seek to identify ourselves with Christ, who came to give his life for others and give glory to God, His father.
The Congregation of the Sisters of Providence was founded in France in 1806 by the Parish priest of a little village called Ruillé-sur-Loir. In the aftermath of the French Revolution the social and spiritual condition of the people was deplorable so Father Jacques-Francois Dujarié, with the assistance of a group of local women, set up a school to teach the young children, and a dispensary to give basic medical assistance to the poor people of the neighbourhood. They also visited the sick and cared for them in their homes. God blessed this work and within a few years the group had grown in numbers and there were frequent requests from other parishes for help.
Father Dujarié obtained permission to give them the status of a Religious Congregation, officially recognised by the Church. He chose the title 'Sisters of Providence' and the motto 'Deus Providebit' (God will provide) because he was well aware that they had to depend totally on God's care since they had no material goods on which to rely.
The 'Little Providence' in Ruillé-sur-Loir.
The first convent was called the 'Little Providence' and this still exists. It is found about three miles from the large Mother House which was later built to house the flourishing congregation. The 'Little Providence' is greatly treasured by all the Sisters because of its links with the early founders of the Order. It is frequently visited by Sisters returning from many far-flung parts of the world.
Throughout the early years of the 19th Century many new foundations were made. By 1840 there were more than 40 establishments in France. And in that same year the first group of Sisters set off across the Atlantic to establish the Sisters of Providence in America. They were led by Mother Theodeora Guerin, a woman of great courage and holiness who has been beatified by the Church in recent years.Towards the end of the 19th Century the French State secularised the schools, and religious were forbidden to teach so groups of Sisters of Providence moved into England, Belgium and Holland where they set up schools and continued the work for which they were founded.
In 1948 a foundation was made in Sri Lanka and the work has spread and prospered there, carried on by many native young women who joined the order. In 1964 all Europeans were expelled by the Government from Sri Lanka, so a group of Sisters made a foundation in Madagascar. They have been joined by many Malagasy young women and there are now several well-established communities working among the poorest of people.
Sisters of Providence in England are today carrying out various apostolates in London, Maidstone, Oxford, Witney, Lincoln and Woodhall Spa.
100 Hundred Years in Lincoln
In 1901 the Sisters of Providence were invited by the parish priest of Woodhall Spa, Fr Goddard, a Belgian, to start a house in his parish. There were orginally five Sisters in Woodhall Spa, but in 1902 two of them came to join some other newly-arrived Sisters in Lincoln where they started a small school on Greestone Stairs, off Lindum Hill.
By 1905 the community had grown to eight Sisters. This larger community together with the growing number of pupils, necessitated a search for larger premises so in 1911 St Joseph's School, as it became known, moved to premises in Upper Lindum Street which had been vacated by the Boy's Grammar School.
Over the years a good number of St Joseph's pupils became Sisters of Providence, some of whom were instrumental in establishing the Order in Sri Lanka where spoken English was required. Between 1960 and 1980 several of the Sisters taught Religious Education to children in the airforce camps.
St Joseph's School continued to be enlarged and improved as the Sisters bought several adjoining properties and built new classrooms. The Convent School being open to pupils of all faiths, made a noted contribution to ecumenism in the city and county. After many successsful years and having served several generations, the number of teaching Sisters declined and regretfully they had to withdraw from the School in 1983. The school was then run for ten years by a trust set up by the Parents' Association during which time the Sisters maintained a presence on the staff and the governing body. Later it was to become the senior part of The Minster School which is a merger of St Joseph's, the Lincoln Cathedral School and Stonefield House.
This development symbolises the vocation of the Sisters of Providence whose mission is to respond to the needs of the Church in today's world. When they came to England 100 years ago, Lincoln had only one small Catholic school in the only existing parish in Lincoln, St Hugh's. In more recent times the co-operation of Church and State, particularly locally, has made generous provision in the three parishes, where now exists two primary Schools and a Catholic High School, with Sixth Form. The Sisters' work now lies in other directions, though for many years one Sister worked in SS Peter & Paul's School and another directed St Hugh's Primary School.
As Sisters of Providence wherever we are, inspired by the motto of our Congregation 'Deus Providebit', we are always trying to fulfil our special vocation:
"To bear witness to the love and goodness of the Father.
To reveal Jesus Christ by proclamation of the Word, by action, or simply by our presence.
To live our hope in a spirit of simplicity and in joy."
(words taken from the Constitutions of the Sisters of Providence.)
The Mother House in Ruillé-sur-Loir