Montreal, Canada: Emilie Gamelin Centre & Sisters of Providence Museum
About Emilie Gamelin:
Born in Montreal in 1800, Emilie was was the family’s fifteenth child. Her mother died when Emilie was only four, so she went to live with her aunt. The upside of this tragedy was that her aunt was wealthy enough to send Emilie to school. She was the only child in her family who got a formal education.
As a teen and young adult, Gamelin helped out in the households of various relatives. She was always devoted to the poor. While staying with her brother, she put a table in the kitchen to welcome beggars. She called it “the table of the king” because she thought poor people deserved to be treated like kings and queens.
In 1823, she surprised everybody by announcing her marriage to Jean Baptiste Gamelin. He was 27 years older than her, and had twice jilted brides at the altar. But they had the love of the poor in common. He taught Emilie about business, which was very unusual for women at the time.
Within five years of marriage, Gamelin’s husband and three children all died. “At that moment she decided to become the mother of the poor in Montreal,” Prada said. Gamelin began a devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, who was very present in every day of her life.
Gamelin’s husband had long supported a mentally handicapped boy named Dodais and his mother. His death bed wish was for Emilie to continue caring for them. She did. This is especially noteworthy, since back in those days, mentally handicapped people were sent to jails. Taking care of Dodais gave her the experience of caring for handicapped, which later would be part of the work the Sisters of Providence carried out.
About The Sisters of Providence:
These painful losses mark the beginning of Emilie’s vocation. Following the advice of Sulpician priest, Father Breguier St. Pierre, she prayed with the image of Mary, Mother of Sorrows, at the foot of the Cross. She felt called to manifest confidence in God’s Providence and, moved by the compassion of the Mother of Sorrows, to reach out to the most destitute of persons.
Msgr Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, wished to establish a community of Canadian Sisters in his diocese. In 1843, with the bishop, Emilie Tavernier-Gamelin founded the Community of the Sisters of Providence, then called Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor. The following year, at the age of 44, Emilie became the first Superior of the Congregation.
Within their first eight years, they’d opened 19 Providence houses serving populations like elderly, orphans, old priests and the mentally handicapped. They took care of typhus victims, opened a school, a hospital and Montreal’s first deaf mute institution.
Then, in 1851, Gamelin contracted cholera. Twelve hours later, she was dead.
About the Sisters of Providence Museum:
More than a hundred years after her burial, the tomb and the Providence mother house were moved to their current site, to make way for Montreal’s new subway system. When they exhumed Gamelin’s body, they found that along with her Sisters of Providence cross and her nun ring, she’d been buried with her wedding ring and a little pouch containing hair from her three deceased children. These items were all laid out on her replica tomb.
The Museum contains three exhibition rooms, showing the history of the order as well as Emilie Gamelin’s role) plus a chapel with her tomb.
You are invited to pray in the Chapel of the Mother House of the Sisters of Providence and to place your intentions at the tomb of Emilie Gamelin.
Traveling to the Sisters of Providence Museum
Address: 12055 Grenet Street Montreal, QC H4J 2J5 Canada
Tel: +1 (514) 334-9090
email: Use contact form on their website
Click here for the official website of the Emilie Gamelin Centre in Montreal