Sister St. John Fournier &
Sister Celestine Pommerel
Founded the St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf —
THE WORK OF TEACHING THE DEAF has always been especially dear to the Sisters of St. Joseph, as it was the main reason Bishop Rosati had invited the Sisters from Lyons, France in 1836. Sisters St. John Fournier and Celestine Pommerel responded to the invitation and after taking a course at Ste. Etienne, came to Missouri and opened a school for the deaf in Carondelet in St. Louis County in 1837. One of the pupils who attended the school said that Mother Celestine was regarded by all who knew her as a saint. Mother Celestine later became the first superior general at the Mother House in Carondelet.
Mother St. John Fournier became the founder of the congregation in Philadelphia, where the Sisters of St. Joseph continue to labor for the deaf.
French techniques for teaching the deaf appeared to be the most advanced anywhere in Europe, one of the more favorable benefits of the Enlightenment that survived the French Revolution. Even Thomas Gallaudet, whose pioneer Hartford school opened in 1816, had studied under French tutors. Pommerel's and Fournier’s work in the founding of the St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf was an important step in education for the deaf and some of their techniques are still in use today.