Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon
During the great missionary movement of the 20thcentury, a request was made in 1906 by Father Joseph Forest of Jackman, Maine, for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon, France, to come to the Diocese of Portland.
With the Bishop’s approval, eight sisters made their way to Jackman where they would staff a parochial school and a girls’ boarding school. At the time of their arrival, there were approximately 80 families in Jackman, mostly of Canadian origin. Everyone was overjoyed with the presence of the Sisters who would assume the education of their children.
A second group of Sisters came into Maine in 1909 – this time in South Berwick.
The ministry was fruitful in Jackman and South Berwick. In both places, the Sisters staffed a parochial school and an academy for high school girls where many young women were prepared academically, spiritually and socially to face the challenges of life. It was within these institutions that religious vocations flourished.
A novitiate was established in South Berwick to prepare young women for religious life.
The Sisters went to Holy Family parish in Lewiston, a strong Franco-American community, to teach in the parish school and help children maintain their native language. The education apostolate expanded by staffing schools in Chisholm, Auburn, Winslow and with the opening of St. Joseph Child Care in the Lewiston-Auburn area in 1949. The Sisters became known primarily for their education apostolate in the diocese.
The novitiate was moved to Auburn.
A Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Center was opened in Dexter to provide religious education for the youth.
Maine became a Province of the Congregation.
1964 – 1965
As vocations increased, a novitiate was built in Winslow.
This was soon followed by the opening of Mount St. Joseph Nursing Home in Waterville, in 1966
This building became the Provincial House in 1969, the center of all Province activity at that time.
In 1971, the Novitiate was moved to Sabattus St. in Lewiston.
From 1972 To 1981
We hosted Marriage Encounter and Engaged Encounter weekends. We also had a Day Care Center for pre-schoolers.
The building was used to house unwed mothers and also the Birthline phone was covered at night.
From 1983 To 1987
It was living quarters for borders who were Seniors at Mt. Merici in Waterville.
From 1991 To 1993
Sara’s Place was established as a transitional living facility for those recovering from drug use or alcohol dependency. It was a collaborative effort with Central Maine Medical Center.
Within the Provincial House building, an ecumenical center for prayer and spiritual development was begun, known as St. Joseph Christian Life Center. Retreats, prayer weekends, workshops and many other collaborative efforts were offered through the years. In 1999 the Center went through a name change; it became known as Living Water Spiritual Center. Programs were developed to meet human, spiritual and social needs of people, thus reflecting a more inclusive mission and purpose.
St. Joseph's Kindergarten was transferred to Catholic Charities, Maine.
The Sisters of Maine have maintained their link with the Mother House in Lyon, France, through frequent correspondence with the Major Superiors as well as through regular canonical visits by the Superior General or one of her Councillors.
The Province, faced with the reduction in its numbers and the need to abandon its institutions, took the decision to close the Retreat Center and to consider the sale of the property of the Provincial House. It was a difficult decision to make, as the mission and ministry of the Center was at its peak.
The Provincial House sold in 2015.
As our age and numbers have changed we have passed our former institutions on to lay collaborators and are now sharing our passion and call to service in news ways. We no longer own and run institutions. Instead we respond to the needs of our neighbours by joining with them in supporting efforts that bring about healing and unity in our broken and fractured world. We also welcome the laity to our St. Joseph Center for weekly reflections on the Sunday Gospel readings, monthly events which explore some of the issues that challenge us in living our faith today and for counseling and spiritual direction provided by some of our friends and collaborators.
The Center hosted an evening on Ignatian Spirituality with Fr. Paul Sullivan, SJ
Day of sharing for sisters, associates and friends.
Sisters attended an interfaith rally for peace and non-violence
We sponsored a community conversation about the trafficking of women and girls in Maine
Our mission never ends but always brings us back to the ‘dear neighbour’ whether that neighbour is the single mother in the apartment down the hall, the parish or larger community effort enriched by our presence and support, or the immigrant CNA whose day is enriched by our welcoming smile as she serve us.
Regardless of age or numbers, we know God still calls us to make our small contribution to God’s dream of unity for our world.