232 Sister Mary Providence

Mary Ellen Tucker, in religion, Sister Mary Providence was born in County Sligo, Ireland on 2 October 1836. She enjoyed a privileged upbringing and was educated by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. The death of her mother and a family financial disaster resulted in the family immigrating to Montreal, Quebec. Blessed Mother Marie Anne Blondin, Foundress of the Sisters of St. Anne, personally recruited her to the Congregation and she entered the Novitiate at Vaudreuil in 1851 and took her vows two years later.

Sister Mary Providence was twenty three years old when she arrived in Victoria, British Columbia on 26 October 1859. Her desire to use her talents for the welfare of others enabled her to guide the young Institute during the formative years of this mission.  For forty five years, Sister Mary Providence devoted herself to the advancement of education, health care and charity in the Pacific Northwest. Her exceptional finesse and governance style kept her in key leadership roles for the majority of these years. During this time, a number of charitable establishments came into existence; schools, boarding schools, orphanages and a hospital.

She was recognized for her love of the poor and especially the orphans who always claimed her special attention. She was present and attentive to each but particularly the Sisters who were sick or dying and those serving in remote missions.  As a leader she was appreciated as a woman filled with joy and compassion. Her vision of education was based on the formation of a strong character and would often remark, “A woman’s influence is not limited; life will be mostly what women truly wish it to be.”

Despite leading a virtually semi-cloistered life, Sister Mary Providence was a shrewd businesswoman, whose advice was sought by leading citizens of Victoria.  She accomplished so much both within and outside her religious community that it was said: “the consensus of the public is that this nun, who seldom left the convent grounds, exerted a far-reaching and beneficent influence which distinguished her as the greatest woman of the time in British Columbia.”

Her passing on 29 May 1904 after 50 years of religious life was deeply felt throughout her Community and the countless people whose lives she touched.