The community of the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph settled in Madawaska in 1873, but its roots are in France. In fact the Congregation was founded in1636 by Jérôme Le Royer de la Dauversière and Marie de la Ferre to take care of poor sick people at Hôtel-Dieu in La Flèche. Other Hôtels-Dieu were founded afterwards in France, first at Laval and Baugé in 1650, and at Moulins, in 1651. In 1659, three religious hospitallers chosen by Mr. Le Royer came to Hôtel-Dieu in Montreal, founded by Jeanne Mance in 1642. Some two hundred years later, small groups of sisters left Montreal to meet the needs of far away regions. They first went to Kingston, Ontario, and founded the Hôtel-Dieu in 1845. Later on other sisters came to New Brunswick, to teach and take care of the sick in all four institutions also named Hôtel-Dieu St. Joseph: Tracadie in 1868, Chatham in1869, Saint-Basile of Madawaska in 1873, and Campbellton in 1888.
In compliance to Bishop James Rogers’ request, and thanks to the support of Mother Pagé, then superior of Montreal’s community, seven Hospitallers were appointed in 1873 to take over the Academy of Madawaska and continue its mission in education. Mother Davignon, first superior, and the sisters also set up a small hospital. Unfortunately, Mother Davignon died from cancer on February 2, 1874. The other sisters returned to Montreal eventually, except Sister Maillet who remained all her life in Saint-Basile.
As time passed, Hôtel-Dieu became autonomous and, because of its charitable activities and the great number of persons who lived and worked there, it looked like a «small republic». A virtual gallery of 425 photos on this Web site illustrates part of Hôtel-Dieu’s history and progress between 1873 and 1935.
Immediately after their arrival in Saint-Basile, the Religious Hospitallers took in a few orphans and opened the girls’ boarding school abandoned by the Sisters of Charity from Saint John, New Brunswick. In 1885, the Academy was recognized as a public school and admitted day pupils. In 1889, the first brick convent opened its doors and first served as orphanage, boarding schools for boys and girls, as well as a convent for the Sisters whose number was increasing.
Girls from five to eighteen years of age were accepted in the Saint Catherine boarding school. In 1902, boys between six and thirteen years old moved into the new St. Louis boarding school, sometimes called Msgr. Dugal’s Petit College. Orphans were integrated with other children their age. Hôtel-Dieu Academy taught pupils of all levels and followed the curriculum of studies for the Province of New Brunswick. At the highest level, some girls and a few boys were grouped together to prepare for their admission at the Normal School in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
The boys’ boarding school closed in 1947, and two years later Maillet College opened its doors to young women interested in acquiring a postsecondary education leading to the Bachelor of Arts (B.A. degree). In 1972, the girls’ college in Saint Basile and the boys’ College in Edmundston joined together thus creating a new entity first known as Saint-Louis-Maillet College. It would later become part of the University of Moncton. In the 1970s, new multipurpose schools were built for students from grades ten to twelve. As consequence, the secondary level of Académie Maillet (formerly Académie de l’Hôtel-Dieu) and the girls’ boarding school closed permanently. In 1982, the Maillet elementary school was moved into the former Maillet College building, then vacant. The Saint-Basile Kindergarten that was private remained at Hôtel-Dieu for a while.
The health care given at Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Joseph, first hospital in Madawaska, started slowly in 1873. All the sick people who came for help were admitted without distinction of religion, language or origin. Also persons of private means and boarders had rooms in Hôtel-Dieu or apartments in houses near the Convent and belonging to the Sisters.
In 1877, with the help of volunteers a small hospital was annexed to the main building that served as convent for the sisters. The new hospital having a capacity of twenty beds opened officially in 1881. A few devoted doctors visited the sick at Hôtel-Dieu, the only hospital for miles around, that soon acquired a good reputation.
When the girls and the sisters moved into the new boarding school and monastery recently finished along with the chapel in 1915, the old brick building was renovated. Patients and hospital personnel left the old wooden hospital to move into this bigger building with a capacity of sixty beds. With a dynamic medical staff and devoted Hospitallers, the Hôtel-Dieu entered into a period of modernisation of health care. Some sisters studied to become nurses. In the 1940s, the hospital had become too small to serve its purpose, therefore the Religious Hospitallers of Saint-Basile took charge of the construction of a 200 bed hospital in Edmundston. In 1946, the patients and the personnel, as well as the school of nursing, doctors and sisters of Saint-Basile moved into the new Hôtel-Dieu. The facilities formerly used for the hospital in Saint-Basile Hôtel-Dieu were transformed into a nursing home, known as the Foyer St-Joseph, accredited to take care of elderly people and handicapped. In the 1970s, the Sanatorium next door that had been opened by the sisters in 1946 became vacant and the Foyer St-Joseph was transferred there in 1976. Finally, it will be integrated into the Foyer Jodin, a new Nursing Home that should open in Edmundston around 2015.
When Foyer St-Joseph moved in 1976, the Hôtel-Dieu was reorganized to accommodate autonomous aging people admitted as boarders. When the Maillet Elementary School moved out in 1982, more rooms and apartments were added. Also, a Foundation was set up in 1994 to support the Hôtel-Dieu Residence.
From 2011 to 2013, important renovations entirely financed by the Congregation of the Religious Hospitallers led to the opening of a small nursing home in the Le Royer wing, completely transformed and brought into compliance with standards. More autonomous people rent rooms and apartments in the building built in 1935 and known as St. Joseph wing.
In 2013, the Congregation of the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph gave the property and full administration of Hôtel-Dieu St. Joseph Residence to the Corporation known as Les Oeuvres de l’Hôtel-Dieu (Works of Hôtel-Dieu).
Texts, photos and updates: Bertille Beaulieu, RHSJ, Archivist for the Religious Hospitallers of St-Joseph, Saint-Basile, N. B.
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