Orélie's blog - Religious Hospitallers Museum
Par Orélie Albert
Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph Museum
It has been 387 years since Sister Marie-de-la-Ferre and Jérôme le Royer de la Dauversière established the congregation of the Religious hospitallers of St. Joseph. It has been 364 years since three sisters climbed aboard a French vessel, heading for the l’Hôtel-Dieu of Montréal. It has been 150 years since seven hospitallers from this same Hôtel-Dieu left their home to establish the first hospital in the whole of Madawaska, in St-Basile.
Once a simple wooden cabin, the hospital has since become a magnificent brick edifice, crafted from clay discovered within the very property. Sister Maillet, founding member of the Hôtel-Dieu of St. Joseph, quickly rose to the status of Mother Superior, succeeding to Mother Louise-Virginie Davignon. She’s the one who asked for a brickyard to be built, which not only provided the materials for the cathedral, but also allowed them to maintain its function during this financially difficult period. Despite the many obstacles they faced, the sisters managed to thrive through the years, caring for thousands, sheltering and educating countless orphans, not asking for a thing in return.
I could elaborate on the rich history of the pioneer sisters of the region, but I give you the opportunity to learn more about it by visiting the Museum of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, ironically located in St. Basile. The reference to St. Joseph is not related to the parish, but to the religious figure, who is the patron saint of families, fathers and workers.
The effort of the many labourers was evident. The imposing cathedral stood above our heads, robust and proud. As we approached the museum’s entrance, people watched us from the school balconies, since repurposed as an apartment block.
Sister Beaulieu, archivist, greeted us at the door, then Miss Linda Thibodeau, her assistant, joined us for the visit. As soon as we set foot inside, I was surprised by the number of objects on display. Several shelves were filled with the original artifacts that the sisters used during their active years. I was already looking forward to learning the context behind each of them.
Some of these artifacts aided the self-sufficiency of the inhabitants, such as tools for crops, making clothes and food preparation. Some were related to the proper functioning of the hospital and its patients’ recovery. I was surprised by how well organized these women were when it came to keeping records. Each patient who has stayed in the hospital is archived in an enormous book detailing their condition. Other objects are reminiscent of our youth in a school almost unchanged since. And of course, one segment of the room is devoted to religious rites, displaying the most beautiful relics that were once used for worship.
But to learn more about them, I'm afraid this blog isn't the source you're looking for. If you wish to satisfy your curiosity, I redirect you to the Museum of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph at 429, Principale rd. in St-Basile. Visits are offered through reservations, 3$ for adults, 2$ for the elderly and students and free for kids. The entrance door to the museum is under the stairs leading up to the cathedral, pretty well hidden. You can contact them through their phone number at 506-263-9031 or email them at email@example.com. You can also visit their website at www.rhsjstbasile.ca if you’d prefer.
The sisters have all the answers to your questions, and they would be pleased to accompany you through their history. This year, you could even wish them a happy 150th anniversary!
As a parting word, I would like to thank you again for reading!
Merry Meet again!
Edmundston Visitor Information Center