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CAMPBELL, CATHERINE ANNE, named Mother Ignatia, member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph and educator; b. 17 Nov. 1840 in Thorah Township, Upper Canada, daughter of Kenneth Campbell, a farmer, and Ann McEwen; d. 3 Jan. 1929 in London, Ont.
A native of Glengarry County, Kenneth Campbell settled in Thorah in the 1820s; his wife was from Scotland. Strongly Roman Catholic, the family encouraged church vocations: Catherine Anne Campbell’s brother Kenneth A. entered the priesthood and four of their nieces would become religious. After her early education in a township school and the requisite postulancy, Catherine Anne assumed the habit of the Sisters of St Joseph of Toronto on 3 May 1856. She was received into the community by its founder, Mother Delphine [Marie-Antoinette Fontbonne*], and given the name Sister Ignatius. Over the next 11 years she taught in various schools which were under the sisters’ direction in the diocese of Toronto. The order was expanding rapidly [see Ellen Dinan*] and in 1867, under the name Sister Ignatia, she was appointed superior of the community’s mission in Thorold, Ont.
Her experience as a teacher and administrator well qualified her to go to London with four other sisters in December 1868 to establish a branch of the congregation. Under the direction of Sister Teresa [Margaret Brennan*], they were to teach in parish schools and visit the sick and infirm, the poor, and the jailed. They opened an orphanage, Mount Hope, on 2 Oct. 1869; that same year Sister Ignatia was appointed assistant superior. On 18 Dec. 1870, eight days after the branch had become independent of Toronto, Bishop John Walsh* named her general superior of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Diocese of London, who were formally incorporated in February 1871.
As superior, she oversaw the growth of the sisterhood in London. Mount Hope, which served as a home for the infirm and the elderly as well as an orphanage, mother house, and noviciate, was extended, with the new building being dedicated on 7 Oct. 1877. In 1889 she negotiated the purchase of the former Hellmuth Ladies’ College, which after extensive renovation was dedicated and named Mount St Joseph Motherhouse, Noviciate, and Orphanage on 26 April 1900. Renamed the House of Providence, Mount Hope became a facility for the elderly. Beyond London, the sisters established convents and staffed schools throughout southwestern Ontario, including Goderich (1873), St Thomas (1879), Ingersoll (1879), Belle River (1889), and Walkerville (Windsor) (1894). Mother Ignatia made the arrangements under which the community provided domestic service for the Congregation of St Basil at Assumption College in Sandwich (Windsor) from 1884 to 1904. As well, she oversaw the establishment of St Joseph’s Hospital in London (1888) and St Joseph’s Hospital in Chatham (1890).
The service performed by the sisters in these centres is inestimable. Their response to a major disaster in London may well have been typical. Following the loss of nearly 200 lives in the capsize of the excursion steamer Victoria on 24 May 1881, Mother Ignatia sent ten sisters out through the city to help bereaved families and orphans.
Mother Ignatia served as general superior until 1902, when changes in canon law required that she relinquish her office. Immediately elected to the community’s general council, she subsequently served as first councillor, mother assistant, and superior of the convent in St Thomas (1902–10), fourth councillor (1911–14), and chair of the committee to revise the community’s constitutions. During her terms on general council, the community established foundations in Sarnia (1906) and in Seaforth and Woodstock (1913). In 1914 it acquired, as its new mother house, Sacred Heart Convent in London, formerly the residence of the Religious of the Sacred Heart.
Between 1870 and her death in 1929 at Sacred Heart Convent, the Sisters of St Joseph of London had grown exponentially: 365 were received into the community, only 49 of whom died before her. Mother Ignatia is one of 50 prominent citizens memorialized in a bronze sculpture, People and the City: a Monument for the City of London, unveiled in 1991 at the corner of Queens Avenue and Wellington Street.
[The author wishes to thank the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of London, Ont., who made available the material on which this biography is based. e.m.s.]
Sisters of St Joseph of Toronto Arch., Acts of profession, 15 Oct. 1858; Community annals. Esther Bardawill, Mother Ignatia Campbell (London, 1993).