Who We Are: Our History
We, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia, trace our origins and spirit to six women who came together in 1650 in war-ravaged LePuy, France with great desires for union with God, among themselves and with their neighbors. Encouraged and aided by Jesuit Jean Pierre Medaille, they were among the first to create religious life for women outside cloister.

Our Congregation flourished until the end of the eighteenth century when the French Revolution dispersed or imprisoned our sisters. Five sisters were guillotined but on the eve of her execution Mother St. John Fontbonne was spared. In 1807 she began the work of refounding our Congregation in Lyon. In 1836, in response to needs of the Church in the Missouri mission, she sent six sisters to St. Louis. From this foundation, sisters like Julie Fournier spread all over the United States and Canada.

With three sisters, Mother Saint John Fournier left St. Louis in 1847 to administer Saint John’s Orphanage for Boys in Philadelphia. Their generosity in responding to each new call for assistance prompted Bishop Kenrick to describe them as sisters “ready for any good work.” In that spirit we continue to respond to the sufferings and injustices of each particular time and place.

Today, our Congregation numbers more than 1100 women serving largely in the Middle Atlantic states and in many other areas from Alaska to Peru.

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