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Father James Joubert, SS

Co-founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the Reverend James Mary Hector Nicholas Joubert de la Muraille, of the Society of Saint Sulpice (SS), was born at Saint Jean d’Angely on the west coast of France, September 6, 1777. He was the son of a lawyer, John Joseph Mary Joubert, and the former Suzanne Claire Cathering Guimbaut. His parents decided when he reached the age of twelve to place him in the military school at Rebois-en-Brie. Young Joubert then followed a military career for a few years until he went to work in the tax office. The French government sent him in 1800 to the island of Saint-Domingue (Haiti), where Toussaint L’Overture had just re-established order after the successful slave rebellion that began in 1791.

One account of Napoleon’s betrayal of Toussaint, war resumed in 1803 and James Joubert fled first to Cuba and then to the United States. He reached Baltimore in September 1804 and soon obtained a job teaching geography in Madame LeCombe’s fashionable school for girls. A year later he entered Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland to study for the priesthood. He was ordained a priest and received into the Society of Saint Sulpice in 1810. For the remainder of his life Father Joubert performed various duties at Saint Mary’s Seminary, including a professor of French and geography, treasurer, vice president, and prefect of discipline at the seminary.

In obedience to his superior, Reverend John Tessier, he began the duty of catechist in the Chappelle Basse (Lower Chapel) in 1827. Father Joubert soon realized that the children, many French speaking immigrants from Haiti, were having trouble learning their catechism because of their difficulty in reading. The unfortunate situation gave him the idea to establish a religious order of women, with the mandate to teach African American children. This resulted in the organization of the original novices of the Oblate Sisters of Providence in the spring of 1828. Father Joubert crafted the order’s original constitution and served as their director until his death in 1843. From his writings, one may surmise that Father Joubert was a practical, determined, eminently spiritual man, who had both feet on the ground at all times. He stood boldly against his many contemporaries who were holding that blacks had neither souls to be saved nor minds to be instructed. Father Joubert’s support, guidance, and strong commitment to the mission of the Oblate Sisters of Providence helped the order succeed and flourish under his devoted direction.

Reverend James Mary Hector Nicholas Joubert de la Muraille, of the Society of Saint Sulpice (SS)