Sisters of Misericordia
Being a single mother in the late 1800s simply wasn’t an option for many women. Rather than face community stigma and bring shame to their families, Winnipeg women who had babies out of wedlock frequently left their infants on church doorsteps.
Three Misericordia Sisters and a nurse arrived by train in Winnipeg on December 1, 1898, speaking little or no English and having very little money. The Sisters began their work in a house on Broadway Avenue, setting up a safe and healthy environment for single mothers and children. By February 1899, the Sisters’ Home cared for 20 mothers and three additional Sisters had joined the staff.
The Sisters came to Winnipeg to provide care to the marginalized but were compelled by necessity to become fundraisers as well. The Sisters walked the streets of Winnipeg – and as far away as Minneapolis – in all seasons to ask for wood, food and money to support their work.
The Misericordia Sisters purchased property on Sherbrook Street and Ida (now Wolseley Avenue) and continued to follow their motto of Compassion of the Heart for Those in Need in their new location.
In July 1900, they expanded their provision of care by building a maternity hospital, passing on their knowledge of midwifery and how to safely deliver babies.
An additional home for single mothers and their children, as well as an orphanage for 100 children, was established in St. Norbert.
The Sisters also opened the Misericordia School of Nursing in 1916 to staff their centres and other health-care sites.
Single mothers and their children lived at the Misericordia Hospital until 1958. Three houses were then used as temporary residences until 1965 when the Sisters opened Villa Rosa, a pre- and post-natal residence, on Wolseley Avenue.
Wolseley Family Place – a family resource drop-in centre – was established by the Sisters in 1988. It continues to provide “a broad range of programs and resources aimed at providing support, enhancing education, and fostering community …working together to strengthen children and families on the challenging journey of living and growing.”
A 100-bed personal care home called Misericordia Place was built in 2000 on Furby Street.
An illuminated cross atop Misericordia Health Centre was installed to commemorate the Sisters and their contribution to Manitoba. Their true legacy is in the intangible: instilling a mission of caring, respect and trust so powerful that it will forever guide those working in Misericordia organizations.
Today, from Montreal, the Misericordia Sisters continue to be actively involved in the facilities they established in Winnipeg.