Michel Lambeth’s St. Joseph’s Convent School has been released on a stamp by Canada Post. Photo courtesy of Canada Post

St. Joe’s Sisters on new stamp

By 
  • July 28, 2014

TORONTO - Canada Post’s new release of stamps by prominent photographers includes a well-known shot by Michel Lambeth of two Sisters of St. Joseph and a man who helped the sisters in Toronto.

The stamp, titled St. Joseph’s Convent School, is one of 35 being released in phases over a five-year period, with seven being introduced this year alone.

“These stamps are the second issue in a five-year series that has been created to showcase and celebrate the best of 150 years of Canadian photography,” said Elia Anoia, Canada Post’s manager of stamp program development. The first series of stamps was released in 2013.

“Lambeth’s well-known St. Joseph’s Convent School, taken in 1960, emphasizes Toronto street life, while capturing his love for working people and concerns about urban social conditions,” said a release announcing the stamp.

In total 460,000 stamps with Lambeth’s photograph on it have been printed to be sold in booklets of 10.

Although the stamp is technically a nod in Lambeth’s direction, the sisters are ecstatic that the photo was chosen.

“I don’t know what it means to people in general but I was kind of delighted by it,” said Sr. Mechtilde O’Mara. “It marks a distinctive era in the history of the city.”

The order first arrived in Toronto in 1851 as four sisters migrated north from Philadelphia to run an overcrowded orphanage during a typhus and cholera epidemic at the request of Bishop Armand de Charbonnel, the city’s second bishop. From there the order expanded its Toronto ministry to include education, health care and social services, all of which were in place by the time Lambeth snapped the photograph in 1960.

O’Mara said she hopes the image will serve as a gentle reminder to the pubic of the importance of religious orders in Toronto.

“The city was greatly impacted by the Sisters of St. Joseph,” she said. “There would be many people when that picture was taken who would ... recognize that habit.” And even if it people don’t draw the connection, O’Mara, who joined the order in 1957, is happy enough with the stamp just being a personal reminder of days, and people, gone by.

“Personally I lived in the neighbourhood for a very long time, both as a student and as a professor at the University of Toronto St. Michael’s College, so that is home territory,” she said. “I know exactly where the picture was taken.”

O’Mara identified the shorter sister as Sr. Mary of the Nativity Sullivan and the man in the foreground as Archie, who spent his retirement helping the sisters out by doing light work for them.

“I don’t know for sure who the second sister in the picture is but I think it is Sr. Geraldine Thompson who was an English professor at the University of Toronto for many years,” she said. “It just evokes a lot of memories of those times.”

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