Sister Elizabeth Bruyere and the Grey Nuns
(Sisters of Charity, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
October 27, 2016:
May 14, 2002:
From my paper for History 356:
Sister Elizabeth Bruyere arrived in Bytown from Montreal in 1845 and established the
"Grey Nuns" to administer to the sick and destitute. This Catholic religious order provided
private welfare and social services (and the General Hospital) to the Irish Catholic and
French-speaking community. In general, churches of all denominations were opposed to
government-sponsored welfare schemes. The churches believed that charity came under its
domain and the Grey Nuns worked hard to serve their clientele. The General Hospital was
non-denominational. However, it was perceived to be too "Catholic" and a few years later,
the "Protestant" hospital (the forerunner to the Ottawa Civic Hospital) was established.
A complete discussion of the accomplishments of Sister Elizabeth Bruyere and the general
provision of health and welfare services in Bytown / Ottawa can be found in Elizabeth
Bruyere's Great Legacy: Health Care and Education in Bytown, published by the Historical
Society of Ottawa. There's a copy in the Carleton University Library, 5th Floor,
call # FC 3096.35.B96 N.27. The Ottawa Citizen of May 14, 2002 contains an article
concerning the Mother House, built in 1846 for the Grey Nuns and still in use today --
it's one of Ottawa's most famous architectural structures.
August 13, 2002:
Hospital History in Canada from The Canadian Encyclopedia.
History of the Grey Nuns.
November 25, 2002:
Hi Al, I wish your story of this old hospital building and the story of Eliz
Bruyere would be on your website so we could read it, (or send it to me). I
lived there in that building around 1950 for several months and it was then
run by Les Soeurs Grises de la Croix or Grey Nuns of the Cross. So it's
still there, and still in use? It was on Rue Bruyere, if I remember
correctly at that time. What a beautiful chapel the sisters had! What more
can you tell me about that branch of the Grey Nuns, those of Bytown founded
by Sr Elizabeth Bruyere? Thanks for the best picture of Marguerite
d'Youville I've seen in a long while. Oh, yes, my husband's first cousin is
a Christopher and my husband's great grandfather was Dennis or Denis O'Brien
(Brine, etc) from County Kilkenny, b 1805 and his wife Margaret Doyle of
Parish Graig, Kilkenny, b c1819, came to Prince Edward Island--as did the
Christophers, they are related by marriage.
Cheers, Marie in PEI
I don't have a copy of the history of the Grey Nuns here but will try to get one from the
library. I do have a copy of an article from the Ottawa Citizen from last year which
describes the Grey Nuns today. If you send me your snail mail address (privately) I'll
mail you a copy of the two items.
Were your Christophers and O'Briens from the Ottawa area at one time? I think that all of
the Christophers in Ottawa, who were Catholic, are related. My GGGrandparents were Patrick Christopher and Mary Fiztgerald. And my GGGrandmother was Margaret DOYLE, married to my GGGRandfather, Lawrence BURNS from County Wicklow, Ireland.
December 11, 2002:
If you want more information on Elisabeth Bruyere and the Grey nuns of Ottawa, this is the
Les Soeurs de la Charite d'OTTAWA,
9 rue Bruyere Ottawa, ON
February 16, 2003:
Dear colleagues -
Your e-mail address was given on the website for the Grey Nuns of Ottawa. There was also
a separate address for C. Malette but she told me I had the wrong e-mail address!
I decided to send the corporate - you my request.
For research on the Bruyere family, in hopes of obtaining details to prepare a family
history of a friend, I am interested in knowing the parents of Sr. Elizabeth Bruyere,
where they came from, etc.
It appears she was the sister of Napoleon Bruyere who married a Sophie (. ....?) in
For your information, I had three relatives (now deceased) who belonged to the Grey
Nuns of Nicolet.
Thanks for the help.
George Christian (Dominican)
March 17, 2009:
My daughter (a Grade 6 student) is doing a project on Elizabeth Bruyere for her school's
Historica Fair on March 27.
We are looking for information on Elizabeth Bruyere (especially something geared to children.)
Also, a copy of the May 14 Ottawa Citizen 2002 article would be useful.
We will be visiting the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa museum this afternoon.
Any help would be appreciated.
Yes, we visited the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa Historical site and Sister Louise Seguin
(the Curator) was very helpful. She gave us a private tour as we were the only visitors. It
seems no one really knows (or cares?) about this important part of our city's heritage.
What a shame! It took tremendous courage and work ethic for these young nuns to leave their
mother house and travel to a frontier town to set up schools, hospitals and orphanages for
those in desperate need.
We would still love to get some English translations of Sister Elizabeth Bruyere's letters.
Apparently, she wrote over 1600 letters, but it doesn't appear that they have ever been
translated into English! Neither of us are proficient enough to translate them ourselves.
Also, I am still trying to track down a copy of the Ottawa Citizen article of May 14, 2002
on the grey nuns of Ottawa.
We also visited the Bytown Museum and found a little bit there. They were very helpful.
My daughter's project is due next Friday (March 27), so anything up to that point could still
Thank you for your time.
August 24, 2011:
Elizabeth Bruyere arrives in Bytown, by Sleigh from Montreal
Source: The Charm of Ottawa, by Blodwen Davies, 1932
Keywords: La Petite Nation Seigneury, Philemon Wright,
Louis Joseph Papineau, Montebello
February 27, 2015:
Here is a nice paper by Taylor Kennedy about the history of the Grey Nuns of the Cross. Read it here in .pdf format.
July 3, 2019:
Mother House of the Grey Nuns in Ottawa
9 Bruyere Street, Ottawa
Source Page 261 in National Capital Region Heritage
E-mail Marie, George Christian, Taylor Kennedy, Anastasia and Al Lewis
Back to Bytown or Bust - History and Genealogy in the Ottawa area