Centennial of the Death of Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart, 1902-2002

"The news came like a sword to pierce our hearts."

Part II: Eulogies and Letters of Condolence 

"She had the characteristics of genius" ... "so faithful and so generous" ... "a great figure in the community." Respect and admiration, as well as sincere grief and loss are expressed in the letters of condolence sent to the sisters in Vancouver following Mother Joseph's death.

Mother Mary Antoinette, Superior General, praised her as the "perfect model of a Sister of Charity, with her soul of flame and her will of tempered steel!" The Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood, a contemplative community in Portland, wrote that the news of her death "came like a sword to pierce our hearts."

Eulogies printed in local newspapers and community publications also attest to her contemporaries' understanding of Mother Joseph's unique contributions to the Catholic Church and the mission of the Sisters of Providence in the west.

A Pupil's Tribute

Providence Academy, Vancouver

"Many and great things did Mother Joseph accomplish during her long and eventful life.... But 'tis not of the great things we mean to speak, but of little things which were not despised or neglected by this valiant woman. We witnessed this on countless occasions. If a lock was out of order or a desk in need of repairs, Mother Joseph would soon appear with hammer and ruler and before long all would be in perfect order. Anything wrong with machinery or other farming implements belonging to the Sisters' farm, Mother Joseph would be called and soon all would be properly adjusted. Then she would lay aside her tools and don a white apron and pair of white sleeves and sit before a frame and embroider in finest gold--veils for the tabernacle, covers for ciboriums, dresses for the Infant Jesus, etc.

"We pupils often watched her as she worked on those delicate fabrics, and we admired the result of her labors. Again we would find her working in wax, making Infants for the Xmas crib, curling and arranging the golden hair; or we would see her casting crucifixes--those crucifixes that are such constant reminders of her--for go where we will in the Academy, orphanages or any part of this House of Providence, we see on the walls before us, crucifixes made by the hands of Mother Joseph. We have seen her drawing plans for a building, an altar, or pedestal for a statue. She would draw the finest lines and make the daintiest little figures--or she might be found making a soutane for priest or bishop; and she was adept at this. I fear, we would never finish should we enumerate all the work in which we saw Mother Joseph engaged.…

"So it is, everywhere we turn we find evidence of the zeal and devotion of our dear departed Mother Joseph. She was truly the friend of all. There are many who love to give her one sweet title in particular and say, 'She was the orphan's friend.' Gratitude bids us all be true to the memory of Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart." -- Flora F. McKee, Nonpareil, January 1902, Vol. II, No. 5

A True Daughter of Providence

St. Vincent Hospital, Portland

"The departure from our midst of our dear and lamented Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart brings such regret to our hearts that we must give space in our annals to the memory of this good and beloved mother. The tremendous work she accomplished for the Community of Providence, excites us to proclaim her filial devotion, her merits, her virtues, the numerous establishments left as monuments to her talents, her incessant labors far above the ordinary, for the Glory of God.

"To her sisters she was a guide who inspired virtue to bear fruit and sowed the seed of attachment to the vocation which she so generously gave of herself. Her beautiful example of a true daughter of Providence, provides for us below the hope that today she enjoys the habitation of the blessed for which she so ardently longed in her last days. Without doubt this dear Mother foundress is now enjoying the glory of the presence of God to whom her entire life was dedicated in the service of the poor and afflicted.

"Her name will go down in history but can never pass into oblivion or be forgotten." -- Chronicles, January 1902

Peace to Her Memory

The Catholic Sentinel, Portland

"From the very outset of her arrival on this Coast, Mother Joseph's life was a most active one and especially devoted to the cause of suffering humanity. She was a woman of great talents and of supernatural virtue in a distinguished degree. Hers, too, was a marked personality, on account of the courage she displayed in the face of opposition. Courage strong enough to move mountains, or stretch walls of her convents when they became too narrow. She was ever the true daughter of charity, in her constant friendship, in her extreme kindness and hospitality, in her zeal for churches and their altars, and finally, in her love for the devotions of the Church, and particularly for that of the Sacred Heart.… Though her name and the story of her deeds will never be contained in the archives of state, they are chronicled in the Book of Life, and they will live embalmed in the memory and hearts of her legion of friends, and of a grateful world, regardless of creed." -- January 30, 1902

"Her presence, her example in those early days made souls resolute and opened to the mind's eye unexplored fields of achievement. Peace to her memory is the prayer of those whose lives touched that of this remarkable woman." -- February 6, 1902

Let Us Continue the Works She Began

Canon Alfred Archambeault, Montreal

"Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart has left us! After sixty years of religious life, of labors and sacrifices without number, she has gone to receive the reward of her works and of her merits. In her the western missions lose their foundress, their guide, their support. God alone knows what all these missions owe to Mother Joseph....

"By her indefatigable zeal in extending far and wide her field of action and influence, by her inviolable attachment to the Mother House, its spirit and its traditions, by her generosity in sacrifice, by her astonishing activity in the accomplishments of works of mercy, by her courage and energy in the face of difficulties and obstacles; finally by her resignation to the Holy Will of God in her hour of trial, especially in the atrocious sufferings of the last months of her life, Mother Joseph will remain in the history of the Institute as one of its most remarkable members.…

"Let us preserve the remembrance of the examples of virtue she has left us, and let us try to imitate them. With confidence in God let us continue the works she began: like her let us strive only for the Glory of God and the extension of His kingdom on earth." -- Letter to the sisters of the community, January 21, 1902 (As Ecclesiastical Superior of the Sisters of Providence, Father Archambeault served as an advisor and liaison between the religious community and Church hierarchy.)

Her Transports of Love

St. Ignatius Mission, Montana

"How good she was, our venerated Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart! What a beautiful model she left us of loving submission to the will of God! Our devoted and dear Mother Mary of the Infant Jesus and some among us have been the happy witness of her transports of love, and it will always be with great pleasure that we will bring them back to our minds. As for you, Reverend Mother and Sisters of Vancouver, who have spent so many years with her, how you must miss her! On the other hand, we must experience great joy at the thought that she is now with God. We shall ask God to fill the emptiness He created in your midst on removing His faithful spouse and your very dear Mother and to grant to our happy predecessor the perfect realization of her constant and ardent desire, that of complete possession of her Divine Jesus." -- Letter to the sisters in Vancouver, February 18, 1902

Remembering a "Valiant Woman"

Gleanings from the Past, 1916

"To all, it seemed impossible that we would ever be without our Mother Joseph, whose very presence was as part of our life. Throughout all the years, since first the Five Missionaries came upon the soil of Vancouver, she had been the prime mover, the actual worker, the one who had accomplished the successes to which all of our Western Community is living evidence. Incomparable in ardor, judgment, ability of mind and heart...such was the Valiant Woman, our Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart, undaunted in the face of duty, undaunted in the face of keenest suffering, undaunted to the last in the horrors of the illness that cost her her life…." -- Gleanings from the Past, published for the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the Sisters of Providence in the west, 1916

Return to Part I: Her Last Days, The Passing of a Pioneer

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