Saint Joseph Villa is a sponsored work of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia. Our motherhouse is located in Chestnut Hill on the same grounds as Chestnut Hill College. We came to Philadelphia in 1847 but trace our origins and spirit to six women, who came together in 1650 in war-ravaged LePuy, France with great desire for union with God and with the “dear neighbor.”
Encouraged and aided by Jesuit Jean Pierre Médaille, they were among the first to create religious life for women outside the cloister and dedicated themselves to “the practice of all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy of which woman is capable and which will most benefit the dear neighbor.”
From that small band of women, communities spread rapidly throughout south central France. Their communities were dispersed during the turmoil of the French Revolution. Some sisters were imprisoned; five were guillotined. After the revolution, Mother Saint John Fontbonne, who narrowly escaped execution, refounded the Congregation in Lyon, France in 1807. Under her leadership the communities flourished once again. In 1836, in response to the needs of the French settlers in the Missouri mission, Mother Saint John sent six sisters to St. Louis.
In 1847, French missionary, Mother Saint John Fournier, left St. Louis for Philadelphia. There she and three other sisters provided care at Saint John’s Orphanage for Boys. To each new call for assistance, our sisters responded with a generosity that prompted Bishop Kenrick to describe us as sisters “ready for any good work.” Faithful to that spirit we continue to respond to the sufferings and injustices of each particular time and place.