Sister Vincent de Paul
Vincent de Paul, Sister of Providence, circa 1870s
Nurturer of Faith and GardensEntering the Sisters of Providence in 1856, Adelaide Theriault was a 30-year-old from Kamouraska, Quebec, whose family obligations prevented her from entering earlier. Hoping to assist with finances for her family, she had applied to work as a seamstress in the Sisters of Providence motherhouse in Montreal. Adelaide often thought of becoming a sister, but did not feel worthy of the call to religious life. When she heard that a bishop, in a far distant place called Nesqually in the Washington Territory, wanted to establish a foundation of Sisters of Providence there, she confirmed her desire to become a missionary. Adelaide entered as a postulant and as one of the 1856 foundresses of the West.
In Vancouver, Sister Vincent de Paul, the name given Adelaide by Bishop Bourget, put her skills to immediate use. She planted a spring garden, baked bread and encouraged Catholic families to come to Sunday Mass and a special breakfast, and she provided lodging and food for the Indian people who came yearly to receive the sacraments.
Sr. Vincent de Paul landscaped the grounds of the House of Providence designed and built by Mother Joseph in 1874. With rake and rosary constantly in hand, she kept the Academy children busy planting and learning about growing things while praying “Hail Mary’s” so the harvest would be bountiful. After the day’s work, she would treat the helpers to fruit or pie.
After laboring in the West for 37 years, Sr. Vincent de Paul traveled back to her homeland in 1893 to represent the Sisters at the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Sisters of Providence in Montreal. Much of her later years were spent in the chapel in prayer.
Sr. Vincent de Paul celebrated her Golden Jubilee as a Sister of Providence in 1908. Just a few months later she became ill and died November 19, 1908, at age 82. She is buried beside Mother Joseph’s grave at St. James Acres, Vancouver, WA.
Excerpted from a chapter in Sister Barbara Schamber's unpublished manuscript history of the Sisters of Providence in the West for the community's sesquicentennial.