The Providence Centre for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation’s roots can be traced to Vatican II which charted a new course for discerning the signs of the times and affirming the ‘preferential option for the poor.”
In response, several Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul offered their lives and services in Peru and Guatemala, including Sr. Shirley Morris and Sr. Rose Healy.
Sr. Rose Healy, top left, upon her return reflected:
“Institutional violence and social sin were new and frightening concepts. What was even more disturbing was an awakening to the fact that I was part of that system and a conviction that if a person espouses to the Christian ethic her voice must be raised in protest, cost what may. If we really believe that we are all children of the same God, we cannot countenance the great inequalities in our society.”
In 1985 they established the Social Awareness Committee and in 1991 Sr. Shirley Morris (top right) became the first coordinator of the Justice and Peace Office. She developed workshops and letter writing campaigns to educate Sisters and the public on the most pressing issues of the times. She also welcomed many immigrants to Kingston.
Shortly after Sr. Pauline Lally became the first full-time director, the office joined groups across Ontario to stand in solidarity for people affected by Premier Mike Harris’ cuts to social assistance and healthcare. The vigil, which began in 1995, continued to keep the plight of the poor and the care of the environment in front of policymakers for 20 years.
Sr. Lally joined the leadership team at the Sisters of Providence and the congregation decided to hire the first lay staff members with Jamie Swift coming on as the director in 2004, and Tara Kainer joining the office in 2006.
The Justice and Peace Office became the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office in 2009 when the Congregation Of Notre Dame Visitation Province, Sisters of Service, Grey Sisters of Immaculate Conception, and Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph came together to support the Sisters of Providence to add climate change and care of the environment to the mandate.
After 36 years of advocating for the poor, working for peace, and lobbying for the care of creation, the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation office closed on December 31, 2021. You can read more about the roots of PC-JPIC in A New Providence Centre for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.
The Catholic Health Sponsors of Ontario (CHSO)’s 2019-2024 strategic plan – Healthy Communities and Care for All – included the opening of an advocacy centre, and an opportunity arose.
The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul supported this effort with a generous endowment to ensure that the work will continue in perpetuity. In recognition of their legacy and in appreciation of their support, the new office was named the Providence Centre for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.
One door closed and another one opened.
Bridget Doherty was hired as the executive director of the new office, Jeremy Milloy joined as the Lead for Integrity of Creation and Climate Change, and Sayyida Jaffer became the Lead for Justice and Poverty Reduction.
The Sisters’ mission will continue and CHSO’s number one strategic goal –Identify and Respond to Unmet Needs– has taken on a whole new meaning.
To learn more about the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, you can read:
The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul by Sr. Mary Electa (1961)
Walking in Hope: Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul 1961-2006 by Alex Ross (2007)
Or visit the Sisters of Providence website.
To learn more about the Catholic Health Sponsors of Ontario, visit their website here.