by Therese Sherlock, CSJ
No one tells the stories of the family of Joseph better than Mary McGlone, CSJ. There isn’t a sister-founder or foundation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the United States that you can’t find engagingly described in Mary’s two-volume history. Because this project was commissioned and published by the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Mary’s research goes beyond Carondelet and shows how far the charism has taken all Sisters of St. Joseph who have roots in Father Medaille’s Little Design.
Anything of Which a Woman Is Capable: A History of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the United States, Volume I, published in 2017, dashes through every foundation the sisters made from 1836 to 1920. Mary’s new book, Called Forth by the Dear Neighbor: Volume II of the History of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the United States, hot off the press in January 2021, is its sequel. In this new volume, Mary profiles congregations more fully, exploring their history through the lens of a distinguishing ministry, a founder or a location, an irreconcilable conflict or an opportunity too good to pass up. The reader meets many “characters,” as the old nuns used to call them, women unstoppable in their desire to see their visions fulfilled.
As an example of how foundations quickly branched out, Mary tells the story of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brooklyn (later Brentwood) who were founded in 1856 by sisters from Philadelphia and Buffalo, one of whom hailed from Carondelet. Brooklyn grew quickly, and they were able to send sisters to Boston in 1869, and a few years later other sisters went to Rutland, Vermont, and Baden, Pennsylvania. These three communities became diocesan, a regular occurrence in this period when American bishops were judged by the number of Catholic schools and other institutions they had in their dioceses. The drama of sisters vs. bishop in Boston could easily be a miniseries on Netflix.
Mary describes vividly how the Buffalo congregation continued our foundational ministry to people who are deaf. Orange, California, founded from La Grange, became known for health care. The four Carondelet provinces each established one or more colleges. Many CSSJ congregations sent sisters to serve outside the continental United States—Japan, China, Peru, Hawai’i, Australia, to name a few.
Bringing the story into the late 20th and 21st centuries, Mary chronicles the rise of the sister formation program, the post-Vatican II period which challenged everything we thought was immutable in religious life, the gathering together in the Federation, the merging of congregations and the foundation of the Congregation of St. Joseph, the emergence of new ministries, a growing awareness of our unity in our diversity. The last sections of this book bring us back to LePuy and to our sisters in the global community.
This is such a good read, you will want to get your own copy. For now, you can order one directly from Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org. It should be available as an e-book in about six weeks, and we will keep you posted when it is available.
In 2010, our congregation’s communication directors from the four provinces collaborated to plan, develop and implement a new ministry to accept online prayer requests from anywhere in the world: Prayers Please.
At the time, they created a free prayer request app to take advantage of emerging technology to meet the need for a quick and easy way for people on the go to request prayers from the sisters. Ten years later, the need for prayer remains the same, but technology has evolved. With the ease of accessing mobile-friendly websites, we have concluded that the app is no longer necessary to continue the Prayers Please ministry. We will be retiring the app as of March 31.
Of course, the ministry continues! We always accept prayer requests through our website at: csjcarondelet.org/we-pray-for-you/.
We thank the John, Marie and Joseph Whalen Foundation, Inc. for their support of the Prayers Please app, the talented web developers who kept it functioning over the years, our communicators for keeping the ministry active, and our sisters for the prayers that are the heart of the ministry.
If you use the prayer app, you may miss being able to access the prayer request form with one tap. It’s simple to add a shortcut to the webpage on your smartphone or tablet, which will act similarly to the app. Just follow the instructions below.
The U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph condemns the violence at the U.S. Capitol yesterday. As members of the Federation, we join them in this public statement.
The U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph joins with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in praying for peace after witnessing the violence and terrorism yesterday in our nation’s Capitol. We are deeply concerned about the state of our country and the future of our democracy. Our hearts ached as we watched white nationalists participate in these despicable actions that threaten not only to destroy our government but to rend the bonds that unite us. We commend and thank the members of Congress and staff who courageously continued their service to the nation last night even amid the chaos, as well as the law enforcement who helped protect and secure the building so the members could resume their responsibilities.
In our increasingly divided nation, we are saddened but not surprised by the predictable outcome of yesterday’s events. The Federation renews our Gospel Charism and commitment to being a unifying presence in the world through appreciation of diversity, transformation, and healing.
At this time, we feel each of us are asked to pause, reflect, and grapple with the history and legacy that brought us to this historic moment of white domestic terrorists attempting to take over our legislative branch. As Christians, we cannot ignore the images of the cross and flags bearing Jesus’ name that peppered yesterday’s scene. We cannot ignore the juxtaposition of the law enforcement response to yesterday’s violence at the Capitol versus the violence inflicted on Black Lives Matter protestors in June. We invite all people of good will to reflect on the next steps we must take to repair our democracy, eliminate white privilege, and contribute to the work of building a more perfect union.
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and our associates live, minister and travel in all corners of the world. To help us see just how far we reach, we’ve recruited an old friend of ours. Mother St. John Fontbonne helped the Sisters of St. Joseph survive persecution during the French Revolution, and she sent the first sisters to the Americas, where they settled in Carondelet, Missouri. She remains a guiding light for our sisters, so we think it’s fitting to take her on some of our travels.
Meet Flat Fontbonne! Inspired by the children’s book series about Flat Stanley, Flat Fontbonne will help us see just how far our congregation reaches.
The idea is simple:
When you see a picturesque opportunity, snap a selfie with her, then send it to us for our #FlatFontbonne photo collection. You can either email it to email@example.com or share it with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtag #FlatFontbonne, so we see it!
A few years ago, while Sister Sally Harper, CSJ was working with a Peruvian inter-congregational committee on human trafficking, a Good Shepherd sister on the committee asked if she could help one of their guests. Hanna, an Ethiopian mother living in one of their residences, spoke some English but no Spanish, and the sister wondered if Sister Sally might find someone the woman could talk with in English. That led to a relationship between Sister Anne Davis, CSJ, Hanna, and Hanna’s daughter, Betty.
Little by little, Sister Anne learned that Hanna had been a refugee most of her life, fleeing Ethiopia for Kenya and eventually South Africa. Hanna married, and in 2015 was forced to flee xenophobic violence in South Africa, traveling with then 3-year-old Betty. Although she was promised passage to the U.S., the trafficker moved them by air to Brazil, by bus to Peru, and again by air to Guatemala. The trafficker abandoned mother and child at the Guatemalan airport, taking their documents with him. After some days in limbo, Hanna and Betty were remanded to Peru, their last place of embarkation. From there, they got help from the Good Shepherd Sisters.
Eventually, Hanna’s husband was reunited with them in Lima, and Hanna found work in a hotel and rented a one-room apartment. They were surviving—until COVID. Hanna’s husband left the country in search of work. When she couldn’t pay the rent, the hotel allowed her and Betty to take up residence in a storage space. Unbeknownst to Hanna, the hotel was keeping afloat by housing people with COVID. Hanna became infected and could no longer work. By now her daughter was 8, her husband was out of touch with them, and she had nowhere to go.
At first, Sister Anne was simply a companion, someone to talk to, someone Hanna could call “friend.” Knowing Hanna’s plight, Anne wondered if she could do more. She took the situation to her local community in Canto Chico (a neighborhood of Lima), which consists of Sisters Maria Elena, Mary Luz, and Yolanda. They decided they could do no less than take the family in.
Now Hanna and Betty are part of the sisters’ local community. Although they do not share the sisters’ morning prayer and conversation time, the whole group eats together and shares all that is entailed in community living. Betty helps set the table, takes responsibility for leading grace before meals, and is doing a good job of teaching her mother Spanish. The two of them are waiting for COVID restrictions to be lifted so that they can take the next step in their journey: traveling to Canada where Sisters of St. Joseph and the Diocese of Peterborough are ready to sponsor them as refugees.
As the sisters reflected on their experience, Sister Yolanda noted how God had been working for years to gather this special community (in fact, Yoli met Hanna even before Anne did while doing an internship in psychology!) Sister Mary Luz commented that all of this could come about because they had the graces of apertura y flexibilidad—openness and flexibility. She said that Hanna’s experience touched her deeply because she herself was a migrant who left rural, mountain life to live in the city. “I know what it’s like,” she said. Sister María Elena Cáceres then added, “We need the dear neighbor in order to grow. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. I thank God for having put people in our path who have done so much to help us grow as women religious.”
Refugees and trafficked people are forced to be open and flexible. That is but one of the gifts Hanna and Betty have brought the sisters. Sister Anne may have summed it all up when she said, “This is an experience of living the Gospel—in union with Jesus who said, ‘I call you friends.’”