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St. Marie Province
In 1850, Esther Blondin founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Anne in Quebec, Canada. Later, she would become known as Sister Marie-Anne. To understand the historic setting of her day is to understand the woman and the meaning of her undertaking. She was a part of a farm family whose life centered on family and on the Church. Her earlier illiteracy was common as was the labor she would undertake to help her family. Her deep piety and reliance on God led her to devote her life to service in God’s name. The new Congregation’s primary focus was faith education but Esther Blondin’s dream was for faith education in co-educational settings. This was a revolutionary concept at the time in Quebec, when segregated classrooms were the norm.
In the 1860s, faced with growing families and limited income, thousands of French Canadians migrated to New England to work in mills and on the railroad.
Fearful that to lose one’s language would mean a loss of faith, French Canadian priests invited French speaking religious congregations of women to come to educate the new immigrants and their families. As early as 1867, the Sisters of St. Anne followed the immigrant trail to the eastern United States.
As their numbers grew, they continued to focus on educating both boys and girls in bilingual English and French schools while creating a culture of parish, school, and family that supported the French Canadian churches in North America. In this setting, Esther Blondin’s dream of co-educational classes became a reality. The sisters have now broadened the sense of “education,” expanding beyond traditional classrooms to the world at large.
In 1953, the American novitiate opened in Marlboro, Massachusetts and was housed in very humble multi-purpose buildings. By the late 1960s, all of the French Canadian sisters were given the opportunity to return to Quebec. They left the province with a century-old bilingual gift of French and English—now with American leadership. The province continued to grow and develop, moving both the schools and the community more deeply into the mainstream of American life while preserving the gifts of its cultural roots.
In 1997, the Marie-Esther Province of Chile, South America was dissolved. Its Sisters chose to become members of St. Marie Province. As did the original French Canadian group, now the US group embraced another culture and another language.
United with Sisters of St. Anne worldwide, Esther Blondin’s generations serve in North America, Chile, Haiti and Africa. You can find more information about the congregation at ssacong.org.
Wherever we are, we continue to follow Blessed Marie-Anne’s example to teach, to fill the voids in our world and to work for a more just and caring society.