The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul served in Trenton, Ontario from 1902-1991.

In 1902 the Rev. P.A. Twohey, pastor of St. Peter in Chains Parish, Trenton requested that the Sisters of Providence send teaching sisters to Trenton to replace the Congregation of Notre Dame, who had recently left Trenton, as teachers at St. Peter’s School.  In August 1902, seven Sisters of Providence moved into St. Peter’s Convent which was built in 1885 and had been home to the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. The seven sisters included Mother Mary Edward, superior; Sister Mary Stanislaus, housekeeper; Sister Mary Agnes, music teacher and organist; Sister Mary Clare, Principal; Sister Mary Ursula, teacher; Sister Mary Francis Xavier, teacher; and Sister Mary Philomena, teacher.

Sketch of St. Peter’s Convent, Trenton by Terri Horricks (SPSVPA 2003-20-4)

The Sisters began teaching in the building that had been the school since 1884. By the 1920’s the Sister Principal saw the need for a larger school which was opened in 1925. Two years later the Principal had extended  the school to include grades 9 and 10 making it a Junior High School as well as an elementary school. By 1953 St. Peter’s school was overcrowded and an addition was built. The Junior High School was in operation until 1967. Sisters continued teaching at St. Peter’s School until 1986.

Sr. Mary Agnes Clare McConville and students at St. Peter’s School, Trenton between 1947 and 1949

There was still a need for more space for the growing number of students and in 1957 a second school was built across the river and named St. Mary’s School. Two Sisters were assigned to this school, one of whom would be the principal. A Sister was principal of St. Mary’s School until 1985 when the last Sister left the school. 

Besides teaching in the schools, the Sisters were involved in many parish activities. The music teacher, in addition to teaching in St. Peter’s School for a number of years, gave private music lessons, and was involved in many parish events. She trained choirs and provided the music for funerals and weddings and other liturgical celebrations. 

From the beginning, the Sisters visited the sick in their homes and later in the hospital. Sisters taught catechism to children who went to the public school and prepared children and adults for the reception of the Sacraments. They looked after the altar servers and did the work of the Sacristan. They conducted Folk Groups and taught guitar to students. In time a Sister became the Spiritual Assistant in the parish providing spiritual direction and retreats to people from the parish and beyond, as well as being involved with the group of Separated and Divorced Catholics, with Natural Family Planning and with Development and Peace. Over the years Sisters were invited to be guest speakers and resource people for many parish and interfaith groups in and around the city. 

December 1973, St. Peter’s Convent, Trenton. Sitting left to right: Sr. Yvette Girard, Sr. Mary Rose of Viterbo Whalen, Sr. Yvonne Patry and standing: Sr. Gertrude Casey.

By 1987 the convent was considered to be too big and expensive for the two Sisters remaining in Trenton and they moved to an apartment. These Sisters were involved solely in pastoral work, including visiting the sick at home and the elderly in nursing homes, hosting Liturgies of the Word in these nursing homes, making themselves available to the people and taking part in many of the activities of the parish. By 1987 the Sisters were involved with an active group of Providence Associates. 

Finally in 1991, when the last Sister was about to leave, the parish had a reception to express their thanks to her and to all the Sisters who had ministered in Trenton. One parishioner told the Archdiocesan newspaper that they were thanking the Sisters “for all the hours of help, all the visiting of the sick, all the Eucharistic ministry, all the daily preparation in the sanctuary.”  She went on to mention the scripture study, the decorations in the church, and the years of dedicated service in the parish elementary schools, the music lessons and the guidance given by the Sisters over the years. The reception was attended by many of the Sisters who had served in Trenton over the years.  The Sisters of Providence thanked the parishioners and the community for their support and appreciation  over the 89 years they had been part of  life in Trenton.

St. Peter’s Convent, Trenton. Left to Right: Sr. Irene Wilson, Sr. Anne Hudec, Sr. Margaret Black, Sr. Lucy Bethel, and Sr. Mary Elizabeth McDonald

Teachers at St. Peter’s School Trenton

List of Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul who taught at  St. Peter’s School, Trenton from 1902 to 1987 by school year. 

Teachers at St. Mary’s School Trenton

List of Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul who taught at  St. Mary’s School, Trenton from 1957 to 1984 by school year.