- 1806 -
Mother St. John Fontbonne, one of the sisters who had been imprisoned and scheduled for execution, reestablished the Congregation shortly after the end of the French Revolution. Spared the guillotine by the fall of Robespierre and released from prison, she, like other women who had been in the Congregation, continued to serve the needs of others while she lived with her family. In 1806, she reestablished the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Lyon, not far from the original foundation in Le Puy. Encouraged by Napoleon, bishops pressed formerly independent houses to unite in larger congregations governed by general superiors.
Missionary expansion was a chief product of the new centralization and the astonishingly active stamp of French Catholicism in the 19th century. By the century’s end, the Sisters of St. Joseph, previously confined to one section of France, were in the United States, Canada, India, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Iceland, Armenia, Algeria, Argentina and Brazil. Today, thousands of Sisters of St. Joseph serve on every continent.