As women committed to nonviolence, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are deeply moved by the tragedy this week in Las Vegas, which is once more a manifestation of violence in our country. We are a congregation of 1,056 vowed members praying for an end to gun violence in the United States of America. We call for a comprehensive approach to gun violence prevention to confront all forms of homicide, suicides, unintentional killings, and mass shootings. We know that gun violence is very complex and leaves in its wake too many broken hearts and spirits, too much suffering. Violence has become the “new normal” in our nation and the world. It is a public health crisis and a moral crisis that is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of millions of people in our country.
We support the restriction of access to assault weapons. We call upon Congress and state and local officials to enact gun laws that will make the purchase of assault weapons illegal, and ensure comprehensive background checks on those purchasing guns at trade shows, in stores and online.
We turn to the God of mercy and peace, the God who wipes away every tear, asking that we may be forces for change, messengers of unity and reconciliation. We invite you to also join with us in praying for the victims and their loved ones impacted by the recent violence in Las Vegas and in calling for a more comprehensive approach to ending gun violence.
Pope Francis on Gun Control
“Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.” (Speech to U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015)
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet echo this statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which urges Congress to take action to protect the young people who have come to rely on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) shares the disappointment of millions of people across the country who had hoped and prayed that President Trump would continue the protection offered Dreamers by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is a common sense path to stability for families, communities, and local economies and a reaffirmation of American values. Ending DACA will cause irreparable harm to families and communities and force 800,000 of our young people back into the shadows.
In the wake of this unconscionable action by President Trump, we urge Congress to immediately take up and pass the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017.
As women of faith, we take seriously the gospel call to welcome the stranger and care for those in need. LCWR and its members will continue to press for compassion for our neighbors, relief for families, and an end to needless deportations. “We will continue to advocate for bipartisan legislation that addresses our outdated immigration system,” said LCWR Executive Director Sister Joan Marie Steadman, CSC. “We will continue to stand in solidarity with families, regardless of immigration status, who labor daily to provide safety and security for their children. We will continue to walk with Dreamers and together with people of goodwill we will work to ensure that the dignity of all people is fully protected.”
Catholic sisters have a long history of accompanying immigrants and refugees. They continue to minister to these aspiring citizens in schools, hospitals, and service agencies along the southern border and across the country. They see the devastating effects of the current immigration system every day. They share the hopes and dreams of these young Americans who represent so much of what is right and good about this country we all call home.
LCWR is an association of leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has nearly 1300 members, who represent more than 38,800 women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, LCWR assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.
We, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, are appalled and saddened by the recent events in Charlottesville. Our thoughts, hearts, and prayers are with those who have been affected by this violence.
As Sisters of St. Joseph, we are called to build a more unified and peaceful society. We believe mutuality can only happen when we acknowledge and deepen our understanding of our racism. These recent events are symptomatic of rises in hate crimes, violence, and deep-seated racial injustice. The acts of violence on minority and racially diverse groups have been misconstrued as individual acts rather than recognizing the more historic and systemic ideology of racial hatred. We know that these militant and extremist groups have been in existence for years throughout our country, but we are deeply concerned that they are increasing in number, becoming more vocal, emboldened, organized, and gaining a larger platform in the media.
We are called to “profound love” in action by being unifiers and reconcilers for peace, healing, and anti-racism. We denounce hatred of any kind. In the words of Cardinal Daniel De Nardo, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “The abhorrent acts of hatred on display in Charlottesville are an attack on the unity of our nation and therefore summon us all to fervent prayer and peaceful action.” We recommit ourselves to nonviolence by our lifestyle, charism, action, prayer, and participation with others in challenging dehumanizing and violent actions. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state but rather the conscience of the state.”
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We, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, representing 1,064 vowed sisters worldwide, strive to move “always toward profound love of God and love of Neighbor without distinction.”
We reaffirm our commitment to justice, nonviolence, unifying love, solidarity with our Native American sisters and brothers and our sacred communion within the whole Earth Community. Looking always to increase our awareness of issues of injustice, we take this opportunity to also reaffirm our support for people and communities adversely impacted by pipeline projects across our country including our Native American sisters and brothers near Standing Rock.
In November of 2016, the Sisters of St. Joseph voiced our affirmation of and support for the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes and their peaceful efforts to protect their water, sacred burial sites, and treaty-protected land threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline. We expressed our concerns with the dangerous, potentially lethal force used on peaceful water protectors/protesters at the Oceti Sakowin/Sacred Stones Camp.
The Sisters of St. Joseph continue to voice our concerns, particularly regarding those persons and communities most impacted by pipeline projects and their related environmental and cultural impacts. We continue to urge our elected officials and governmental agencies to engage in respectful dialogue with impacted communities through regulatory and court processes and to ensure peaceful and environmentally responsible outcomes for the:
Dakota Access Pipeline, particularly in North Dakota, threatening the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes;
Lancaster County Gas Pipeline in Eastern Pennsylvania threatening land owned by and sacred to the Sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ;
Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline replacement, particularly in Northern Minnesota. This project threatens tribal communities in Canada, at the point of extraction in the Alberta tar sands; Minnesota, where the new lines and multiple surface water and Mississippi River crossings are planned; and Wisconsin.
The Sisters of St. Joseph commitments to care for Earth and to reduce our carbon footprint are inspired by Pope Francis’ challenging encyclical, Laudato Si’:
“We see increasing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet…Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it” (Laudato Si’,19).
We turn to the God of all of creation and ask that we may truly be instruments of unity, peace, and care for all creation.
It was a historic moment when, in 1974, six risk takers met at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet motherhouse in St. Louis to talk about forming a lay associate program. More than 40 years and 800-plus associates, consociates, ‘Ohana and Familia de San José (ACOF) later, another historic moment for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet transpired – the first-ever ACOF Convocation.
The convocation was held June 22 to 25 at CSJ-sponsored Fontbonne University in St. Louis with 70 participants–both sisters and ACOF—representing the Albany, Los Angeles, St. Louis and St. Paul provinces as well as the regions of Hawaii and Chile.
Two and a half years in the making, the event was the inspiration of the ACOF directors who were called by the 2013 Acts of Chapter directives to deepen communion by being and acting in new ways as one congregation. “Those of us on the Congregational Leadership Team are delighted that this has come to pass,” says Sister Mary McKay, the leadership team liaison for ACOF. “It’s a great opportunity for the first step into a bigger experience of common experience and identity.”
The convocation was designed to help ACOF develop relationships with one another, strengthen commitment to mission and deepen the desire to live out the CSJ charism of loving unity. Dianne Nelson, former director of Association from the Los Angeles province says, “We envisioned a gathering that would inspire, energize and unite ACOF from every province. And from the beginning of the convocation, we knew that this vision became a reality.”
Grounded in tradition, activities included a tour of the St. Louis province motherhouse and an appearance by foundress Mother St. John Fontbonne (aka Sister Donna Gunn of St. Louis). Keynote speakers Sister Shawn Madigan and Associate Carrie Arnold from the St. Louis province gave presentations on shared charism and the evolution of lay holiness movements.
The weekend was the first opportunity for many participants to make connections beyond the boundaries of region. Cheryl Behrent, a consociate from St. Paul says, “It’s really life giving to be around this number of other people that are steeped in mission.”
“The energy and the enthusiasm is so motivating,” says Irene Harrison, an associate from Albany. “There’s so much hope for the future.”
Although ACOF may have different names, geographies and cultures, participants found unity in diversity. Associate Gerry Rauch from St. Louis says, “I really appreciate that cultural diversity, the cultural respect for different traditions and how different provinces make that operational.”
This uniqueness was expressed through prayer experiences created by each of the regions. Working sessions focused on celebrating the gifts of each unit and the sharing of initiatives and learnings from each group.
Andrea Pearson Tande, co-director of Consociate Services in St. Paul says, “Hearing from one another about what works in Los Angeles or Hawaii or St. Louis and to take some of those practices home makes us all stronger.”
“I learned more about working together as ACOF—both the spiritual and the human aspects,” says Carolina Rodríguez, Familia de San José of Chile. “We reach out to one another because we speak the same language of love.”
The convocation may have lasted only a few days, but it’s only the beginning for ACOF expressing the desire to carry the experience into the future–together.
“We came together as diverse units; we left knowing our strength is in our oneness and our commitment to grow in that oneness,” says Anne Harpham, co-director of the ‘Ohana in Hawaii. “Our challenge now is to build our relationship further and to envision our ACOF future as we read the signs of the times and live the charism within our communities.”