Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon, from left, are Lorraine Rioux, Janet Gagnon, Rita Bujold, Angela Fortier, Marcelle Roy, Dorine Moreau, Judy Donovan and Marie Line Rioux. Contributed photo

JACKMAN — Members of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon journeyed from Winslow to Jackman on Sept. 14 to honor those who came before them.

The day marked the 115th anniversary of the arrival of six sisters from Lyon, France, beginning a legacy of service in Maine that continues to this day.

“For us, this pilgrimage was no mere exercise in nostalgia or trip down memory lane, it was important for energizing our mission today. In our sacramental tradition, memory is inextricably tied to mission. We wanted to remember and honor our pioneer sisters and Fr. [Joseph] Forest in order to recall God’s goodness and take nourishment and inspiration for our own living the same mission today,” said Sister Judy Donovan, leader of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon in Maine, according to a news release from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

The sisters’ pilgrimage took them to St. Anthony Cemetery, where they placed red roses on the simple white headstones that mark the final resting places of the sisters who served in the area, as well as at the gravesite of Forest, the founding pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Jackman, who helped to bring those first sisters to Maine.

The sisters from Winslow then joined with St. Anthony of Padua parishioners for a Mass in the cemetery, which was celebrated by Fr. Hyacinth Fornkwa.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Sister Janet Gagnon shared some of the history of the sisters, who had come to the rural community to educate schoolchildren. They had left France during the time of laicization, when a new law forbade the sisters from wearing their habits while teaching in government schools. It led to a great missionary movement, with sisters leaving France to minister elsewhere, including the United States and Canada.

“It was the greatest movement of the time. Imagine, these were French sisters who culturally were not prepared to go to another country, but they went willingly and adapted,” said Sister Janet.

It was through a connection with sisters serving in Fall River, Massachusetts, that Forest arranged for sisters to come to Jackman to teach schoolchildren there. He agreed to build them a convent.