Sisters of St. Joseph
Father Jean-Pierre Médaille, a Jesuit priest, assembled six intrepid women to form the "Daughters of Saint Joseph” based on a model he called a "Little Design." On October 15, 1650 in Le Puy, France, the congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph was formed.
Father Médaille traveled and witnessed poverty, sickness, and many distressing situations of orphans and young girls. However, he also found that there were women who felt a commitment to God and a service to their neighbors.
While praying before the Blessed Sacrament, a new model of Women Religious was revealed to him. He felt a call from God to initiate a new approach to religious life that would enable these women to commit their lives to God while also serving the neighbor.
His vision was direct service, and not living in the seclusion of a cloister. The idea of women working in neighborhoods was a radical idea that had been tested during the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Having faced resistance, Father Médaille, nonetheless, received support from Bishop Henri de Maupas. Official Church recognition of this new form of religious life came in 1651.
Father Médaille envisioned a group of Women Religious working with community for the spiritual growth and development of society. For guidance, he wrote 100 Maxims to offer a reflective path and spiritual direction to inspire a life of great virtue via contemplation, prayer, and works of Mercy.
The Maxims focus on relationships between people and God, and neighbor with neighbor. Father’s guidance was visionary, and he taught that love and service through the works of Mercy were never isolated, and that contemplation offered an opportunity to become more and more alive in love. Speaking to the whole person and seeking what is real, the "Little Design" evolved into a thriving religious community across the globe.
For love of God and the dear neighbor, the original Sisters of St. Joseph went forth in small groups to provide active apostolic service, relieving all manner of distress caused by the civil and social turmoil of 17th century France. Dispersed by the French Revolution, surviving Sisters reassembled at the beginning of the 19th century, regrouping around the principal place which became a Motherhouse. The Congregation in Le Puy, France flourished.
In 1866, the Sisters of St. Joseph were asked to initiate a presence in Florida by the Bishop of Savannah, Georgia. Eight (8) Sisters arrived from France amid the summer heat and humidity to begin serving the people of Florida. The Father Miguel O’Reilly House served as their first convent and school. Their initial ministry was to teach the children of recently freed African-American slaves. Their work has blossomed over the years to include healthcare and other services, and their commitment remains firm.
While the operations were established in St. Augustine, Florida, the ministry expanded across the state. Eventually, the Sisters developed a healthcare ministry. In the 1940’s, Archbishop Hurley asked the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, Florida, to begin preparations to operate a hospital to be located in Miami. Soon, the Sisters of St. Joseph realized this dream, and Mercy Hospital opened its doors on December 18, 1950.
Since the opening of Mercy Hospital, the Sisters have maintained an active and involved presence within the Miami community. The hospital has grown from a small facility to a large, multi-specialty medical center. In 2002, the hospital recognized the importance of serving the medically complex who required longer hospitalizations. The idea of the Long Term Care Hospital (LTCH) was became a reality.In 2011, to ensure the continuing strong presence of Catholic healthcare in Miami Dade County, the hospital joined America’s largest healthcare provider: HCA. We are honored to join their team of nation-wide providers.
To learn more about the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, Florida as well as to participate in contemplative thought and reflection, please visit the Sisters of St. Joseph website or information about the Father Miguel O’Reilly House Museum.