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St. Mary’s Teachers’ College, Chapeau, Quebec

St. Mary’s Teachers’ College was operated as a private educational institution by the Sisters of St. Joseph under the jurisdiction of the Quebec Department of Education for 29 years. It was closed in June, 1969, mainly because, in the future, training in the Province of Quebec was to be affiliated with universities.

The role of the Sisters was vital during the early years of the school. With the revision of courses in 1955, Chapeau Normal School became St. Mary’s Teachers’ College. The specific purpose of the college was preparing English-speaking teachers, drawing candidates not only from western Quebec, but from the north, Montreal, Quebec City, Gaspe, and the Eastern Townships as well. There were important changes over time, including the introduction of the two-year “B” Diploma Course, the admission of male students, the change to lay administration, and a tremendous expansion that more than doubled the registration of the initial 40 students envisioned when the institution was first built.

Many Sisters taught here from 1955 to 1969, enduring hardship in the first years. No bridge connected the island and Pembroke. The train came only as far as Waltam. There was no doctor; the water supply proved inadequate taking unexpected detours through ceilings and walls; holidays were few; and much physical labour was required to make ends meet on a $12.00 per month fee for board, lodging, and laundry.

During the first 15 years of its existence, Chapeau Normal School prepared about 300 teachers, French, English, or bilingual, to enter the teaching profession. In its last 14 years, some 412 English-speaking students graduated. The graduates of the institution were recognized for their superb preparation.

The reform of education in the Province of Quebec, initiated with the publication of the Parent Report, brought a complete revamping of structures and teacher education. In May, 1968, after a series of meetings, the Congregation agreed to terminate operations in Chapeau once assurance was given that a shift to Hull would create a much greater future for English language teacher education in Hull. The graduation ceremony in June, 1969, was the last held, and saw the closing of a chapter of educational history.

Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada Archives


Weekly Pause & Ponder

...We don’t have to agree with each other in order to think well together. There is no need for us to be joined at the head. We are joined by our human hearts. 

Margaret Wheatley.  www.quotationsbywomen.com


Waking Up from a Millennia-Long Sleep

The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world---we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves, and to each other. (Joanna Macy—activist, environmentalist, Buddhist practicioner Italics are mine)

In a nutshell, Joanna Macy shines a clear light on what integral ecology means. The word ecology in the phrase gives the limited view that integral ecology is about environmental issues. Not so. In its root meaning integral ecology is about the interdependent relationships in the household that we call earth…and beyond.

What is amazing is how our consciousness has evolved over the last 50 years. It would never have occurred to most of us 50 years ago to call earth our common home. The boundaries of what we would have called the “neighbourhood” would have been confined to about two blocks from where we lived. In this present chaotic era, we know viscerally and with some anxiety that climate agreements must be global; we know as we have never known before that poverty and images of scarcity set the groundwork for war; we sense in our bones that our images of God, of the Sacred radically influence how we live together; we experience that acts of generosity and courage add to the field of wisdom in which we can all share.

We need to give our attention and our intention to this: seeing what is wrong, what are the distortions that are damaging the earth and each other AND being tenacious about holding the primal truth about the goodness, empathy and innate desire for connection at the heart of who we are. If we only focus on what is wrong, cynicism and arrogance will eventually prevail. If we only see the beauty of the possible, we may become detached from the real and present suffering in our world. Holding both together gives momentum to what can change.

And so, together, let us keep waking up to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves, and to each other. And in the process, we just might be discovering a whole new relationship with and within God.

Margo Ritchie, CSJ




From One Generation to the Next: Inspiration is a Priceless Legacy

"A physician father treats all and dies from the illness of his patients." He tells his little daughter, “If someone is drowning you must extend your hand.” His daughter Irena who does not know if she can save herself risks all to rescue 2,500 Jewish children, smuggling many out of the Warsaw ghetto.

Four Kansas teenagers seek the truth of the Holocaust and discover Irena's story of courage. Through correspondence Irena helps them to deal with the illness of their parents and 9/11.

The teenagers produce a play “Life in a Jar” to record their research. The play is enacted in schools over 345 times in the U.S., Poland and Canada. In Poland especially the play opens up discussions of this dark time. Through the play Irena is able to influence many others.

Irena told the teenagers, “After the Second World War it seemed that humanity understood something and nothing similar would happen again.” She added, “Humanity has understood nothing. Religious, tribal, national wars continue. The world continues to be in a sea of blood. The world can be better if there's love, tolerance and humility. Compassion for all people is part of repairing the world.”

Irena did not consider herself a hero and said she had done only a “regular thing.”

Elzbieta Ficowska, a child whom Irena rescued, said, “Irena represents the often forgotten truth that no one should be indifferent. It's particularly the young who need people like Mrs. Schindler.”

Reach out – you can influence others for good no matter your age.

Click HERE to read Irena's story. More inspiring details can be found HERE.

Marguerite Wales, sister of Sister Nancy Wales, CSJ


Weekly Pause & Ponder

The task that remains is to cope with our interdependence – to see ourselves reflected in every other human being and to respect and honor the differences.

Melba Patillo Beals.  Warriors Don’t Cry.

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Copyright 2013. Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.