Sisters of St. Joseph History

Oct. 15, 1650: Sisters of St. Joseph are founded in Le Puy-en-Velay, France.

Sept. 2, 1866: First colony of eight sisters from Le Puy reach Picolata Landing on the St. Johns River on their journey to St. Augustine.

Jan. 15, 1874: Cornerstone laid for the motherhouse and St. Joseph’s Academy.

1867-99: Separate schools for black children, recently freed from slavery, are among the first undertakings of the sisters. As membership increased, the sisters began their works of education and care of the sick and orphaned in Florida and Georgia.

Nov. 24, 1899: The Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Augustine are established as a diocesan congregation and assume a statewide role as pioneers in the fields of education, health care and social services.

April 24, 1916: Three sisters were arrested for teaching at the St. Benedict’s School for Negroes, charged with violating a 1913 Florida law prohibiting white teachers from teaching at black schools and black teachers from teaching at white schools.

Two sisters were released on their own recognizance. The principal, Sister Mary Thomasine Hehir, refused to pay the $25 bond and was ordered to appear at the St. Johns County Courthouse the following morning. Instead of going to jail, the judge permitted her to be held under house arrest at the convent. The following month she was set free on the grounds that the law did not apply to private schools.

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