“I bring you my daughter Esther, who wishes to dedicate herself to the religious life. She can read and write and figure accurately. She can cook and sew and spin and do all manner of housework well. She has learned carpentry from me and can handle tools as well as I can. Moreover, she can plan and supervise the work of others, and I assure you, Madame, she will some day make a very good superior.”
-- Joseph Pariseau, presenting his daughter Esther to Mother Emilie Ganelin, founder of the Sisters of Providence.
It was 1843, and Esther was twenty.
Just nine years later, as Sister Joseph, she was named assistant to Mother Caron, superior after the death of Blessed Emilie Ganelin.
Four years after that, as Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart, she "led a group of four Sisters of Providence from Montreal to the Washington Territory. Their mandate and their desire was to care for the poor and the sick, to educate the children, and to bring the light of Christ into the lives of all they met."
For nearly sixty years, Mother Joseph, "the Builder," "designed and/or supervised construction of 29 schools and hospitals, one of which was Seattle's first hospital".
--"Mother Joseph of the Sisters of Providence (Esther Pariseau) (1823-1902)"
"Popular stories about Mother Joseph on the construction sites abound, painting a vivid image of this spirited and gifted woman. One can well imagine her bouncing on wooden beams to test their strength, climbing up to inspect a roof, or working late into the night to rebuild a poorly made chimney. She was a knowledgeable and demanding supervisor, expecting perfection from both herself and those with whom she worked. Building design, property selection, negotiating with civic and church leaders, overseeing the laborers—Mother Joseph managed them all. Her finest building, Providence Academy in Vancouver, built in 1873, still stands as a testament to her aesthetic vision and workmanship."
--"Pioneer, Leader, Woman of Faith"
Please click here for an account of the last days of Mother Joseph and of her death on January 19, 1902.
"She made monumental contributions to health care, education, and social work throughout the Northwest."
--Inscription on the bronze statue of Mother Joseph, by Felix W. de Weldon, given by Washington State to The National Statuary Hall Collection in The United States Capitol
Just $5 a month supports NCR's independent Catholic journalism.
We are committed to keeping our online journalism open and available to as many readers as possible. To do that, we need your help. Join NCR Forward, our new membership program.
Looking for comments?
We've suspended comments on NCRonline.org for a while. If you missed that announcement, learn more about our decision here.