In 1864, the pioneering Sisters of St. Ann purchased a 400-acre farm on which they first developed a boarding school for young Native girls (1864-1876) and then enlarged to make room for orphaned girls from the Academy in Victoria. In 1904, the school became a boarding school for boys. In 1921, a larger school building was built. The number of students increased after the construction. In 1950, girls were enrolled as externs and the student population grew to over 100. In 1956, the school became a day school for girls and boys. The school closed in 1964 and moved its teaching down the street to the current Queen of Angels school site.
The 1960s and1970s were a period of change and turmoil in much of the world. The tumult encouraged a number of efforts to build community to establish a better way of working together. It was in just such an atmosphere that 1978 saw a group of people with varied backgrounds and interests get together to discuss building community at the old St. Ann’s School and farm in Duncan.
From 1978 to 1979, meetings took place with the Sisters and other interested persons, and by July 12, 1979, agreement had been made to establish a registered charity named the Vancouver Island Providence Community Association (VIPCA) – named in memory of Sister Mary Providence, the founder of the school in Duncan in 1864. The mission of the newly established VIPCA was established and therapeutic programming began. The farm site became known as Providence Farm
In 2009, at the celebration of Providence Farm’s 30th Anniversary, the Sisters of St. Ann generously and formally gifted the farm property to VIPCA. With gratitude, humility and an awareness of the magnitude of the responsibility changing hands, the Association accepted the gift.
Providence Farm continues to operate today as a working, therapeutic, organic farm serving adults and seniors with a variety of mental health challenges, developmental and intellectual disabilities and age-related illnesses.
For more information you can visit the Sisters of St. Ann website at: http://www.ssabc.ca/