This year, the Church of Ottawa, originally the Diocese of Bytown (1847), and Archdiocese of Ottawa (1886), will celebrate our diocesan anniversary with special solemnity. Our Holy Father Francis has declared Mother Elizabeth Bruyère venerable, the first step toward canonization or being declared a saint by the Church.
Mother Elizabeth Bruyère came to Bytown in 1845 with only five sisters (three professed sisters, a novice, and a postulant); here she established the community of the Congregation of the Grey Nuns of the Cross, changing their name to the Sisters of Charity in 1968. Caring for the Irish, English, and Scottish immigrants who came to Bytown to build the Rideau Canal, Mother Bruyère and her sisters worked tirelessly to provide for the sick and dying, orphans and seniors. They opened a hospital and a school and many other foundations which were the only “social services” available to the people of that time. Mother Bruyère was known for her compassionate nature, her attention to the needs of the poor, and her willingness to be of service to the poorest of the poor made it possible. It is possible that some of the Irish immigrants to Bytown who were attended to by Mother Bruyère and her sisters settled in this area and were early members of this parish.
In 1876, Mother Bruyère passed away at the age of 58, leaving a community of 198 sisters and a legacy which continues today through the Bruyère Foundation. The history of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa is inextricably interwoven with the history of the Archdiocese, owing to the profound contribution made by the Sisters through their work and mission to the people of this city and region. As we celebrate our diocesan anniversary this year, we honour Venerable Mother Elizabeth Bruyère and all the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa for their 170+ years of service.
Some of the many works of the Sisters of Charity include the Ottawa General Hospital, founded in 1866; St. Charles Hospice opened 1871, and became St. Louis Residence, opened 1966; St. Vincent Hospital opened 1924, and its current location in 1932; Elizabeth-Bruyère Health Centre opened in 1980, and the Regional Palliative Care Centre opened in 1983. The Sisters of Charity have initiated many other projects which continue to this day; each of these directed to the care and well-being of the people of our city, region, continuing the work of Elizabeth Bruyère.
The Diocesan Feast Day is celebrated this year on Thursday, June 14th beginning with a visit to the Oratory and Tomb of Mother Bruyère. This will take place at the Mother House of the Sisters of Charity, 27 Bruyère Street, from 6:15 – 7:15 pm. A brief prayer service in the Mother House Chapel will be followed by a procession to the Cathedral for Mass at 7:30 pm. I encourage you to join our Archbishop and the Sisters of Charity, and me, for the Prayer at the Mother House and the Anniversary Mass at the Cathedral.