Beginnings Early Education in BC

Mother Mary Ann and the Order of Saint Ann

                Marie Esther Sureau Blondin was born in Terrebonne, Quebec on April 18, 1809 the third of twelve children.[1]  Her family believed that at her birth and at the age of three, she had been protected from death and because of this celebrated her birthday every year with prayer and thankfulness.  From the beginning she felt a special calling to assist others.  As a child she was always happy to give alms or assist with the beggars that came to their house.  She entered novitiate in 1830 and after taking vows received the name of Sister Saint Catherine and became one of two mistresses of the school at Vaudreuil, eventually taking the role on by herself.[2] 

                By 1848 Sister Catherine began to inform others of her desire to establish a religious order.  Aware that she had no resources for the order itself, she believed that God was instructing her to do so and that He would provide her with the means needed.  In June 1848 she met with the Bishop of Montreal to advise him of her desire for the order.[3] The Bishop allowed her to start to seek out the women who would be willing to join with her in this while at the same time continuing to pray and listen to God regarding His exact plans for her.  Written approval was received on August 9, 1848 from the Bishop and on September 6, Sister Catherine along with six other girls entered into retreat.  The retreat was meant to test their beliefs and strength and allow them to turn to God for guidance in their duties ahead under the guidance of a local Father who had been assisting Sister Catherine in her spiritual call.  During the retreat they requested that Father Archambeault place them under the care of the Virgin Mary and a secondary saint, Saint Anne, set up rules and guidelines for the order, assign them a name and a standard dress.  The community was named “Daughters of Our Lady of Good Help and Saint Anne” with Sister Catherine as the directress of the order.  They were to wear a black dress on Sundays while being allowed to wear coloured ones the other days of the week.   At the end of the retreat on September 13, 1848 the Rule for the Order was read and the novitiate began.[4] 

                The first duty of the Order was to run the schoolhouse in Vaudreuil where members of the community were unsure whether they could trust this newly founded Convent.  The school was directly for the instruction of the girls of the community and many of the families overcame this initial distrust and sent their daughters there, some who would later become members of the Order itself.  Eventually permission was given by the Bishop, during a visit there, for the members to begin to make their own habits in May 1849.  At the same time he removed Sister Catherine as Directress and placed her in the role of Mistress of Novices, a probable attempt at letting her learn the art of obedience.  Despite her removal as the official head of the Order, Sister Catherine continued to direct the other members of the order in their roles and in their attitude toward the life of a nun.[5] 

                The training period for the new order ended on September 8, 1850 with a ceremony of Profession.  The day was chosen specifically as it was the Feast of Saint Mary, the daughter of Anne and took place in the church itself to allow the parishioners to witness the event.  Five novices, including Sister Catherine, now Sister Mary Ann, took their vows that day and received their rings as symbols of fidelity to God.  That night the Bishop read the Charter of Erection giving this new order its place within the Catholic Church.  The Charter stated that the Sisters of this order, now named the Daughters of Saint Ann, were to spend their lives teaching children.  The foundress was appointed to be the first Superior and Mistress of Novices of the Order, a role she had been fulfilling unofficially since the beginning of the Order.[6] 

                Mother Mary Ann died on January 2, 1890.[7] 


[1] Sister Marie-Jean-de-Pathmos, S.S.A., A History of the Sisters of Saint Anne Volume One 1850-1900 (New York: Vantage Press, 1961), 27.

[2] Pathmos, A History of the Sisters, 29.

[3] Pathmos, A History of the Sisters, 32.

[4] Pathmos, A History of the Sisters, 39-40.

[5] Pathmos, A History of the Sisters, 41-42.

[6] Pathmos, A History of the Sisters, 51-56.

[7] Pathmos, A History of the Sisters, 258.


Mother Mary Anne