The foundation in pictures

1. A Lesson in Charity
In Cap-Santé, about 1840, the future Foundress of the Good Shepherd of Quebec, Marie-Josephte Fitzbach, widow of Mr. F.-X. Roy, teaches her children, Séraphine, Célina and Clorinde, the great duty of charity, for God is disguised in the poor !
2. The Quebec City Jail
Mr. George Manly Muir, a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, visits women prisoners. When he invites them to change their way of living, one of them retorts,“What’s the use? Even if we tried to live a better life, we’d never make it. Once we’re in trouble, there’s no way out, and no one wants us around.” Mr. Muir is shaken by that answer. Slowly, the idea of a shelter takes shape in his mind. In 1850, he becomes the Founder of the Good Shepherd Refuge.
3. Manifestation of God’s Will
Since October 1849, Mrs. Roy occupies a room as a resident with the Sisters of Charity of Quebec. One day, Father Louis Proulx brings her a proposal from the Bishop: “Madame, would you find it too repulsive to take charge of St. Magdalen’s Refuge which is being planned for unfortunate women in order to convert them ?”
Mrs. Roy, surprised by this unexpected request, answers that she wants to reflect, consult and pray over it.
4. Unforeseen Communication
After her interview with Father Proulx, Mrs. Roy consults her daughters on what to decide. Their filial love protests. Had they not dreamed of a more tranquil future for their mother ? Both weep silently.
5. Grace Triumphs
The daughters of Mrs. Roy, knowing their mother’s virtue, advise her to accept. “Go, mother, since God wills it,” says the elder.
6. Humble Submission
Mrs. Roy no longer hesitates. She goes to the Archbishop’s Residence where Father Proulx presents her to Msgr. Pierre-Flavien Turgeon. “Your Grace, I am your humble servant; do with me as you please. I shall consider your will as God’s own will.”
The Archbishop of Quebec congratulates Mrs. Roy and blesses her, for he knows she will live up to his expectations.
7. The Sacrifice
On returning to her room, Mrs. Roy reflects on the promise made to Msgr. Turgeon. Falling to her knees before her crucifix, she cries out: “O my God, is it possible that you would ask for such a sacrifice ? Now I am condemned to live with fallen women…. If at least I could hope to transform a few of those unfortunate women into true Mary Magdalens !”
8. New Year’s Day, 1850
What does the new year have in store for Mrs. Roy ? While greeting the Sisters of Charity who have come to offer their best wishes, Mrs. Roy remains heavy-hearted. “My God, I meant to finish my days with the Spouses of Christ, and now….” Sobs choke her voice.
9. Timely Help
The following day, Mr. Muir comes to congratulate Mrs. Roy on her courage, and offers her some money to pay for the starting needs of St. Magdalen’s Refuge. The opening is set for January 11th.
10. Unrequited Kindness
On January 7, 1850, two wretched women ask to stay with Mrs. Roy. Despite her fear and revulsion, she agrees to keep them in her room until the shelter is opened. Three days later, her protégées desert their benefactor, who offers up to God this first trial in her apostolate.
11. On the Way to St. Magdalen’s Refuge, Richelieu Street
It is January 11, 1850. Through blinding snow, Mrs. Roy and her companion, Mary Keogh, wend their way. Mary bears their most precious possession, the Crucifix. On foot, they follow the load of modest furniture. Here, the icy wind forces them to stop and catch their breath. “My God,” they murmur, “this is for love of you alone. Come to our help!”
12. The Evening Meal
The day has been exhausting for the two women. Mr. Muir brought some firewood and used two pieces to replace the broken legs of an old stove lent by a neighbour.
At noon, they had nothing to eat. This evening, they have found a little tea and some butter and borrowed half a loaf of bread. It would not have been enough at all, if God had not given these two heroic women the bread of his consolations.
13. At the Door of the Refuge
The next morning, Mrs. Roy opens the door to two young women, one of whom looks as distinguished as the other seems degraded. A letter from Msgr. Charles-Félix Cazeau, Vicar General, recommends the wayward one accompanied by her sister. Since it was decided that no one would be admitted before two weeks, the messenger is sent to Father Louis Saché, the Jesuit chaplain, who will see what to do.
14. The Good Shepherd Is Sending Her to You
The messenger comes back to the shelter with Father Saché’s answer: “The Good Shepherd is sending her to you!” Mrs. Roy and Mary Keogh therefore welcome this first “penitent.”
January 12th will henceforth mark the date of foundation and the inauguration of the ministry.
15. A Night of Anguish
Terror-stricken by the fearsome looks of the unfortunate woman, Mrs. Roy and her companion dare not retire. They barricade themselves behind the door and pray. “What will we do,” says Sister Mary, “if she wants to kill us ?” “We’ll die on the altar of charity,” answers Mrs. Roy, “and God will receive us in paradise.”
In the other room, the poor woman listens to their fears and wonders how to reassure them.
16. A Prediction
“You will see, Madame, that this shelter will soon become a regular community,” Miss Marie-Anne Angers declares to Mrs. Roy on January 13, 1850, after sharing her wish to dedicate herself to the work of the penitents.
Doubtful at first, Mrs. Roy would finally be convinced of Miss Angers’s vocation, and admitted her on the following March 23rd.
17. A Touching Petition
Because of the shelter’s limited resources, Mrs. Roy has to refuse entrance to a ninth woman arriving on Good Friday, 1850. At this, all the other penitents plead on their knees for the newcomer, offering to share their meagre food with her. The unfortunate woman is turned away, but on Easter morning she would be found huddling between the double doors of the shelter and allowed in.
18. Providential Meeting
Father Proulx comes out of the confessional and presents Miss Esther Ouimet to Mrs. Roy as a promising recruit for her ministry.
The two women quickly become acquainted. The same aspirations unite them as sisters.
19. At St. Vincent de Paul House
On October 29, 1850, the personnel at Richelieu Street climb the hill in Quebec City to settle at last on St-Amable Street. The shelter’s humble furniture is carried by hand. The new house, provided by the charity of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, is modest. The adjoining bakery shop will serve as the first school.
20. In the Recreation Hall
Mrs. Roy presides at the handicraft circle of lace-making, tailoring, mending and knitting. Cheerfulness fills the room.
21. Secondary Work of the Institute
On January 7, 1851, Mrs. Roy opens a school for children outside the city walls. A number of poor girls are admitted free. While Sister Thivierge teaches the French girls, Sister Mary teaches English to the Irish lasses.
Until a better place is available, the classes are held on the second floor of the bakery. Humble beginnings!
22. In Search of the Lost Sheep
On May 1st, 1852, a penitent creates much agitation when she deserts St. Magdalen’s Refuge. Mrs. Roy and Sister Thivierge go looking for her and find her hidden in a brothel. With gentle persuasion, Mrs. Roy helps the fugitive out from under a bed and brings her back to the fold.
23. Spiritual Conferences
Father Louis Saché, spiritual director of St. Magdalen’s Refuge, gives conferences to the directors of the ministry. They listen to him explain points of the Regulations which will be the basis of the Constitutions and Rules of the Institute.
24. Admirable Devotedness
Lawyer Jacques Crémazie, a man of many talents, prepares the directors of the new society for teaching. The day’s lesson done, he becomes a singing professor for Sisters Angers, Nolan and Fiset. At the chapel, lacking an organ, he accompanies them on his violin.
25. In the Little Chapel
January 24, 1856. Of the ten sisters on retreat, seven are admitted to pronounce vows and three will receive the religious habit. In their little chapel, they prepare in contemplation and prayer.
26. February 2, 1856
O blessed day! The chosen ones, having donned the religious habit, enter the chapel. Each Good Shepherd Sister is accompanied by a Sister of Charity.
First comes the Foundress with Mother Mallet. Seven sisters pronounce their vows of religion. They are the Foundress and her first Collaborators. The three others wear the white veil of novices.
27. The Bishop’s Blessing
On February 2, 1856, Msgr. Charles-François Baillargeon, Diocesan Administrator, establishes the community, already known by the name of Good Shepherd, as a religious congregation: the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
On February 7th, Msgr. Baillargeon presides over the election of the Councilors and blesses them.
28. Jesuit Father Braün and His Spiritual Daughters
Father Braün, a Jesuit, has just given a conference strengthening the new sisters in their purpose.

The Ministry Continues…

From 1850, Marie-Josephte Fitzbach and her Collaborators showed love and goodness by receiving women known at the time as “lost sheep.” That is why, even before being established as a religious community, the devoted Foundress and her first companions were called “Good Shepherd Sisters” by the people of Quebec City.

As soon as they became a religious community in 1856, the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, also known as the Good Shepherd Sisters of Quebec, saw their ranks increase gradually and the effects of their goodness spread. And so, whether in Quebec, the USA, Africa, Haiti or Brazil, the Congregation assists women in difficulty and their children through its social works.

The Good Shepherd Sisters likewise became known for their teaching. As of 1851, they opened classes to admit little girls from poor families. Their educational work spread rapidly. Teaching arts and music has also been part of the excellent reputation of the Good Shepherd Sisters in the field of education.

Today, the Congregation continues to communicate her charism of love and goodness through its involvement in various organizations in Quebec and in other countries where the sisters are present.


© Soeurs du Bon-Pasteur de Québec, tous droits réservés / all rights reserved
Updated January 26, 2023.