Celebrating Mother Gamelin in 1900

February 19, 2000, was the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Mother Emilie Gamelin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence. This essay looks back at how the sisters and their colleagues celebrated Mother Gamelin's centennial in 1900. Sisters working at homes for the elderly, hospitals, schools and orphanages throughout Canada and the United States planned simple but meaningful liturgies, dinners and activities reflecting the mission and ministry of their foundress.

This simple paper "badge" was worn by the sisters who served the centennial feast to the orphans and boarders at Providence Academy and to the patients at St. Joseph Hospital, Vancouver, Washington.

Celebrations at the Provincial House, Vancouver

Although they were far from Montreal, the sisters in the west anxiously waited for Mother Gamelin’s feast and were part of the centennial excitement. When the grand day arrived, the celebrations at Providence Academy began with a low Mass at 6 a.m. At 9 a.m., Bishop Edward O’Dea, of the diocese of Nesqually, along with Father Felix Verwilighen, a staunch supporter of the sisters, and Father Charles O’Reilly from Portland, con-celebrated a high Mass in the academy chapel. The sister annalist records that the lights, the decorations, the music, the songs – all were grand. Songs were written for the occasion using known hymns with new words to Divine Providence. The choir was accompanied on two harmoniums, a piano and Father Verwilighen’s violin-cello.

By the afternoon, the festivities turned toward the orphans and the poor with a banquet for 150 from the Academy and St. Joseph Hospital. Serving tables were set up in the reception room at the Academy. The sisters and their guests admired the orphan boys and girls who arrived in rank and order and patiently waited for the prayer to begin. The sisters and young ladies from the local community served the meal and each wore on her shoulder a badge which read, "Homage to our Mother Gamelin, Foundress/ With gratitude and affection,/ We greet her today, above,/ Whose every recollection,/ Fills our hearts with deepest love."

This centennial story, written by Loretta Zwolak Greene, Archivist, highlights some of the many historical resources available in Providence Archives. These sources include chronicles, correspondence of Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the Mother Gamelin Collection, newspaper articles, biographies and artifacts. For additional information about the celebration or other historical questions, please contact the Archives through e-mail at archives@providence.org, telephone (206) 937-4600.