This Week in History


More than a century of education in Acadia

For the Week of Monday, September 26, 2016

On September 29, 1868, a group of six nuns from the congregation of the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph left the mother house in Montréal for Tracadie, New Brunswick. The primary goal of the delegation, led by Sister Marie Pagé, mother superior and founder of the Tracadie mission, was to heal leprosy patients. However, they provided much more than simple care to the people of Tracadie and the surrounding area.

The Religious Hospitallers of Tracadie circa 1893, near the fence of the lazaretto
© Historical Museum of Tracadie

Education is a very important aspect of the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph community. In 1873, the nuns opened their first Tracadie school; it closed in 1886, but the nuns continued to teach orphans in their mission house. In 1910, with an ever-growing demand, they decided to build a larger school to house the orphans and boarders. In September 1912, Holy Family Academy opened its doors to about 200 boarders and day students, as well as some orphans. Holy Family Academy was a private school where the sisters taught the province’s official curriculum, as well as business courses, music, singing and home economics.

Holy Family Academy, a boarding school founded by the sisters in 1912
© Historical Museum of Tracadie

In 1967, education reform brought with it the construction of public schools in the region, leading to the closure of Holy Family Academy’s boarding school. The premises were leased to the Department of Education, and it was used as an elementary school until 1976. During its 55 years, the Academy welcomed approximately 5,000 boarding students, not counting the day students who studied there.

The Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Joseph de Tracadie is a national historic site that commemorates, in Tracadie-Sheila, N.B., the presence of the nuns and their assistance in treating leprosy. The contribution of the Religieuses hospitalières de Saint-Joseph is a national historic event.

For more information about leprosy in Tracadie, read Trapped at Tracadie in the This Week in History archives. To learn more about religious orders in Canada, read Heal the Body, Save the Soul, Grey Nuns Arrive at Saint-Boniface and Helping the Fallen: Body and Soul, also in the This Week in History archives.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada. Find out more about the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

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