Beginnings Early Education in BC

Sister Marie du Sacré Coeur (Mary of the Sacred Heart) Valois

                Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart was born on April 30, 1830 in Vaudreuil, Quebec and became a member of the Order on June 9, 1851.[1]   She was chosen to be the Superior of the Convent in Victoria but would hand over that role to Mother Mary Providence in 1859 due to the growth of the Convent once established.  She would leave the Convent in Victoria in 1864 to open the new convent and school in Cowichan along with Sister Mary Conception.[2]  They were chosen for this task thanks to their ability to forge ahead through their fear and showed the skills they had learned in setting up the little school in Victoria by adding moss to the walls of the log cabin for insulation.  She would return to the convent in Victoria for her retirement.


Sister Marie Angèle Gauthier

                Sister Mary Angèle was one of the four pioneer nuns who travelled to Victoria where her role was as Assistant, clothier and linen keeper.  Sister Angèle was born on February 8, 1828.[3]  She kept a diary of their journey West full of details regarding the passage across Panama and the unique method of reaching the ship.  It was published in 1859 for private use and was circulated in the Montreal magazine L’Ordre.  Sister Mary Angèle died on May 28, 1898.[4]


Sister Marie de la Conception Lane

                Sister Mary Conception was born on August 26, 1826 in Rawden Quebec and came from an Irish family in Quebec.  She had entered the convent in 1857 and had been a novice for 10 months when Bishop Demers first made his request to the Order.  Her vows were taken on February 12, 1858 after special permission was granted due to the missionary work she was to undertake, a concession made only in these times.[5]  This would be eventually changed and was no longer possible with Canon Laws.  Her role at the Convent was to be Bursar but she would become known for her care of the sick and assistance in laying out the dead, reflecting the dual roles that the nuns were expected to perform in Victoria, nurses and teachers.  As a pioneer nun she worked to clear the land around the small cabin and planted the first garden there.  Along with Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart she would open the first school in Cowichan, a school devoted to the care and teaching of the First Nation children of the area.  Later she would answer the request of the Bishop of New Westminster to assist in the opening of a girl’s school there in 1865.[6] 


Sister Marie Luména Brasseur

                Sister Mary Luména was born on February 15, 1833 and went to school in Vaudreuil making her vows to join the order in 1858 before the trip West.[7]  This trip would tax the nun leaving her in poor health but despite this she is the first person to have taught the Christian Doctrine at the school.  Her skill as a teacher was also noted as being able to civilize the children of the school teaching them the manners of a proper Victorian woman.  Sister Mary Luména was the carpenter of the first nuns and built the beds, chairs and tables that were used in that first log cabin school.


Marie Mainville – Lay Helper

                Marie Mainville originally traveled to Victoria to be the lay helper for the Sisters and was in charge of the Junior Boarders at the Convent.  Her role was also to include preparing the food for the Bishop although ill health at one point saw the Sisters themselves taking over that position.  She stayed in Victoria for 23 years before returning to Montreal to become a member of the Sisters of St Ann at the age of 58 becoming Sister Mary des Sept Douleurs.  Mary Mainville died in Lachine on February 17,1917.[8]


[1] Sister Mary Margaret Down, S.S.A., Ph.D., A Century of Service 1858-1958 (Victoria: Moriss Printing Company, 1966), 39.

[2] Down, A Century of Service, 57.

[3] Down, A Century of Service, 39-40.

[4] Down, A Century of Service, 127.

[5] Down, A Century of Service, 40.

[6] Down, A Century of Service, 60-61.

[7] Down, A Century of Service, 40.

[8] Down, A Century of Service, 32, n1.