Emily Tavernier, who was born in Montreal, was orphaned at an early age and raised by her aunt. At the age of twenty-three, she married a wealthy farmer and bore three children, but within four years they had all died, leaving her alone in the world. Turning to Mary, Mother of Sorrows, she vowed to make the poor her new family. She began by taking in a young intellectually disabled child and his mother. But gradually she opened her home to all those in need—orphans, abandoned children, the sick and mentally ill. She named her home the House of Providence. With her inheritance, she opened other houses and sought volunteers to assist her.
In 1843, with support from the bishop of Montreal, Emily and her companions established a new congregation, the Sisters of Providence. Emily took her first vows in 1844 and became the first mother superior.
Lack of clean water led to regular outbreaks of cholera and typhus. The sisters responded heroically in their care for the sick. But eight years after the founding of the congregation, Emily herself was struck with cholera and died on September 23, 1851. She was beatified in 2001.
“Blessed Emily’s spiritual life gave her strength for her charitable mission; she emptied herself of all things and found the energy to comfort everyone. Taking her as your model, I urge you to put yourselves at the service of the poor and of society’s most underprivileged, who are God’s beloved, to alleviate their sufferings and thus make their dignity shine out.”
—Pope John Paul II