The Sisters of St. Ann were founded in 1850 in Vaudreuil, Que. by a woman named Esther Blondin, who is now known as Blessed Marie Ann Blondin.

At that time, children in rural Quebec were not well-educated. Blondin was determined to change that, and became a teacher, then director of a school for girls.

Within a few years, the Bishop of Victoria visited Quebec looking for missionaries.

Sister Marie Zarowny, from the Sisters of St. Ann explains that “four [Sisters] were chosen, and in 1858, they embarked on their trip to come to Victoria.”

The school in Victoria quickly filled, and because of the huge demand, in 1871, the Sisters built the first wing of the current St. Ann’s Academy. Then in 1876, built St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Ann missionaries have worked in Canada, the United States, and developing countries around the world. In 1999, the Congregation established Esther’s Dream Fund to distribute funds to each region, such as Victoria, and empower those regions to manage their legacy themselves.

But, as Sister Marie points out, “we in North America are continuing to become fewer and fewer, and older and older, and we realized that we could no longer carry on with the administration of that fund.”

And so a partnership was formed with the Victoria Foundation, which was founded in 1936.

Sara Neely, Director of Philanthropic Services for the Victoria Foundation says that over those 82 years the Foundation has been creating permanent income-producing funds that grant out every year to local charities, charities in B.C., and charities across Canada.

Sister Marie says the Victoria Foundation was chosen because “we wanted an organization whose values linked with ours.”

Now, the Victoria Foundation will oversee Esther’s Dream Fund “to get to the root causes of poverty, social injustice, and reconciliation issues” says Neely. “And through the grants that we’ll be making to those organizations, we’ll be facilitating the legacy of the Sisters.”

Sister Marie points out that “the history is breathtaking in lots of ways, and for us at this point, we are very proud of the Sisters who went before us, and we want to continue to live with the same spirit and the same values that the Sisters who went before us had.”

Veronica Cooper