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Women’s Religious Orders Fund Some of the University’s Most Progressive Projects

Over the past decade, Saint Paul University has made a name for itself as an institution for change and social justice, becoming home to several innovative academic programs and research centres. What many may not know is that much of these progressive projects were made possible in large part by donations made by women’s religious orders.

The Sisters Charity of Ottawa, the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of Saint Joseph have each created glimmering milestones in the University’s longstanding history.

“Women’s groups have a long history of supporting the community and empowering individuals through charity and service,’ explains Chantal Beauvais, Rector of Saint Paul University. “By investing in research, education and overall student success, these groups have cemented their legacies and facilitated progress for generations to come.”

In honour of International Women’s Day, we want to share how women’s religious orders have fostered change to create a more just, equitable and inclusive future for all.

Supporting Communities – Locally and Globally

From 2015 to 2018, the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa made a series of generous donations which were used to launch the Élisabeth-Bruyère School of Social Innovation and the accompanying Mauril-Bélanger Social Innovation Workshop.

Today, the Élisabeth-Bruyère School of Social Innovation focuses on research and education that empowers grassroots organizations and individuals to create real, positive social change. Through its projects, it seeks to tackle systemic issues such as poverty and social inequality. The Mauril-Bélanger Social Innovation Workshop is a center for training, collaboration, and launching social organizations that will positively impact the community and fight poverty. It offers a unique space that represents a dynamic junction between innovative project incubation, social entrepreneurship, and socially innovative research.

The Élisabeth-Bruyère School of Social Innovation’s mission echoes the works of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa, whose founder, Mother Elisabeth Bruyère, sought to help the Ottawa region’s poor, sick and marginalized individuals. During the School’s opening ceremony, Sister Rachelle Watier – who represented the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa – gifted the school a lantern. This gesture represented the passing of the torch, that the new School would continue the order’s mission of social justice and community empowerment.

Leadership in the 21st Century

When Saint Paul University was developing a ground-breaking school dedicated to transformative leadership, the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul were inspired.

“The congregation in some way wanted to honour its Sisters, past and present, who have been dedicated to the education ministry. After hearing about the proposed School of Transformative Leadership and Spirituality, we came to the conclusion that we are all educators, no matter what ministry we have been involved in,” explained Sister Sandra Shannon, General Superior of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.
Following a generous donation made by the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul in 2017, the Providence School of Transformative Leadership and Spirituality was founded.

Today, the School offers a Graduate Diploma program and a Master’s level program to help established and emerging leaders promote equity, diversity and inclusion in their organizations and communities.

A Gift for a Greener Tomorrow

In 2021, the Sisters of Saint Joseph made a donation toward a project that would serve the global community - the M.A. in Social Justice and Ecology.

“Our order lives by the call to be a good neighbour to all. Today, to be a good citizen of the world is to show respect for our shared planet,” explained Sister Margo Ritchie, Sisters of Saint Joseph. “Research, education and action for ecological sustainability are integral to the well being of all people and living creatures – now and for the future. We are proud to support the students and researchers who hold this mission to heart.”

Currently administered by the School of Ethics, Social Justice and Public Service, the M.A. program seeks to further student skills, knowledge, and comprehension in areas related to relationships between environmental degradation and social injustices and inequities. The curriculum addresses both conceptual knowledge and practical connections between social injustices and ecological and social stability.



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