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Fondatrice et noviciat

Our history

From then to now...

It was in 1880...


Our history was born from the unquenchable flame of love for the Lord that animated our foundress, Mother Marie-Léonie Paradis. The radiance of her fervor was such that our community was quickly formed, grew and spread in the world.

More than 1600 women of different origins, in their common desire to serve Christ in his priests, have chosen to become Little Sisters of the Holy Family.

Today, our mission remains relevant, and we continue to carry it out in piety and dedication.

Foundation of the Institute

The Institute of  the Little Sisters of the Holy Family was founded by Mother Marie-Léonie Paradis in Memramcook, New Brunswick, Canada, on May 31, 1880, to support the ministry of priests.

The first Sisters of the community were called to work in various colleges in the regions of Montréal (QC), Saint-Hyacinthe (QC) and in Maine (United States of America).

In 1895, 91 Little Sisters of the Holy Family established their mother house in Sherbrooke (QC) with the diocesan approval of Bishop Paul LaRocque.

Centre Marie-Léonie paradis
Fondation de l'Institut
La Fondatrice et le noviciat de Sherbrooke


Mother Marie-Léonie and the Sherbrooke novitiate in 1907.

Try to find her...

Hint: she is wearing a crown of flowers.

Growth of the community

Expansion is rapid and requests for service are numerous. Mother Marie-Léonie and the members of her community meet the challenges as they arise.

The Little Sisters accept service agreements with colleges, seminaries, rectories and bishop's residences, located in various Canadian provinces as well as in the United States.

Croissance de la communauté

Death of Mother Marie-Léonie

On May 3, 1912, the Institute suddenly lost its foundress. At the time, 635 Sisters were working in 40 houses of clergy in Canada and the United States. 

The mourning of the one who was known as "the mother of all necessities" affected the Church as well as the population. Priests, seminarians, families, and the poor who benefited from Mother Marie-Léonie's remarkable charity grieved.

The nuns who followed in her footsteps, in spite of their deep sadness, must roll up their sleeves to ensure that her work continues according to the same values and with the same fervor.

Exposition de mère Marie-Léonie


Mother Marie-Léonie laid out, May 4, 1912

Funérailles de la fondatrice


The Little Sisters of the Holy Family who were present at the funeral of their foundress. This picture was taken in May 1912 in front of the mother house on Marquette Street in Sherbrooke.

Décès de mère Marie-Léonie
Collège pontifical Canadien, Rome

New challenges

On July 1, 1925, the Little Sisters of the Holy Family crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the first time to work in Rome.


Canadian Ponctifical College, Rome

Maison générale Mont Sainte-Famille

Meanwhile, in Sherbrooke, another major project was in preparation: the eventual construction of a larger house.

The work, which lasted two years, was completed in 1930. The result can still be admired today at 1820 Galt West Street, Sherbrooke.


Mont Sainte-Famille, Sherbrooke, QC, 1930

Nouveaux défis

The Institute at its peak

In 1959, the Institute reached its highest number of professed Sisters, 1103 Little Sisters of the Holy Family.  From then on, the number of young women entering the community began to decrease, but the needs in the various institutions remained. 

This problem was of concern to the institutions, which always needed support staff to ensure their proper functioning, but also to the Sisters who, reluctantly, were obliged to refuse certain requests.

Cérémonie de profession religieuse


Religious profession ceremony at the general house, January 10, 1959. During that year, there were 14 temporary and 17 perpetual professions.

L'Institut à son apogée
Mission au Honduras


North American nuns work in the kitchen of the Major Seminary in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with the first Little Sister of the Holy Family from Honduras.

First mission in Honduras

This gradual decrease was not an obstacle to the community's ambition. In the Church, there was more and more talk of opening horizons to the world. This missionary call from Pope John XXIII was well heard in our country.


Thus, in 1962, a first mission was founded in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The following year, a Honduran woman joined the community. She was the first, but not the last. Vocations from Central America increased so that in 1975, a central house was inaugurated in Miraflores. 

Première misson au Honduras

Other international missions

Still in the 1960s, other nuns were sent to Brazil, Chile and Haiti.

The experiences of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family missionaries in these places were positive and enriching, but did not bring any new vocations to our Institute.


Group of nuns with a Haitian family in front of the Apostolic Nunciature in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the early 1970s.

Mission à Port-au-Prince, Haïti
Autres missions intern.
Évolution du costume religieux

Second Vatican Council

This period coincided with an important wave of changes in the religious world. For the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, the Second Vatican Council influenced the modification of the Constitutions and Rules of the Institute and the modernization of the official costume. 


The change from black to white was gradual in order to allow the Sisters to live the transition well.

Les effets du Concile V2

First mission in Guatemala

A new mission began in Guatemala in 1990.


The community was happy with this new deployment, because in contrast, in North America, it was obliged to withdraw its services from many missions due to the lack of human resources.

Mission au Guatemala


The Salesian Institute of Theology was the first place in Guatemala where we worked.

Première mission au Guat.

100 years... 125 years...

100e anniversaire de fondation

In 1980, the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family celebrated its 100th anniversary. Twenty-five years later, we again had festivities for our 125 years of existence. The many celebrations attracted both religious and lay people, who participated with great interest.

125e Anniversaire de fondation

Both in 1980 and in 2005, we received many thanks for the accomplishment of our mission. We were encouraged to continue our service because, even after all these years, our spiritual and material support remained a necessity.

Celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Institute at the General House, March 1980.

Celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Institute at Saint-Michel Cathedral Basilica in Sherbrooke, June 2005.

100 ans... 125 ans...

Current state of the Institute

Au Boisé d'Élodie

Since 1880, 185 mission site have been served. Today there are 16: 1 in Québec, 13 in Honduras and 2 in Guatemala. 

(Click here for a detailed list)

The majority of the North American Sisters, over 100, occupy the General House opened in Sherbrooke in 2017. 

Au Boisé d'Élodie General House, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada

The Central House in Honduras was rebuilt in 2021 to meet the evolving needs of this growing community. It is in these new generations of daughters of Mother Marie-Léonie that the Canadian and American women have placed their trust to ensure the continuity of the Institute and the realization of its mission.

Central House, Miraflores, Honduras

Maison centrale au Honduras
Centre Marie-Léonie

Through its musem and the group of Friends of Mother Marie-Léonie, the Marie-Léonie Paradis Center, located at the Saint-Michel Cathedral Basilica in Sherbrooke, continues to tell the story of the past and present kindness of our Blessed Foundress. Thus, we hope to continue to make her know, for we realize the good that she can bring to those who ask her. We await in faith the day when she will be declared a saint.

Marie-Léonie Paradis Center, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada

État actuel de l'Institut
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