God Bless the Storyteller

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. It is now available for order online.

   March 22nd, 2021      Posted In: General