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.’”
Give the gift of Sr. Mary McGlone’s Called Forth by the Dear Neighbor: History of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Volume Two. This second volume of the U.S. history of the Sisters of St. Joseph is currently in production. You can reserve your signed, personalized, advance copy today for $22 ($27 for expedited shipping). You’ll be among the first people to get to read this much anticipated second volume.
The U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph has 100 books available for pre-order that can be signed and personalized. Reserve your copies today by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Do so by December 23, and they’ll provide a gift certificate for your recipient to be included in time for Christmas. Note: The books will not be printed before Christmas, but those who pre-order will be the first people to receive the book.
Look for information about regular sales after the new year.
Last week, Noriko Kuroki arrived in Los Angeles from her native Japan to continue her discernment about religious life. As a candidate, she has the opportunity to live, pray, and share life with sisters and others who associate with the community. Additionally, Noriko will participate in a monthly class on Zoom with our other candidates in LA and Albany, led by various sisters in the congregation. Even in the midst of the pandemic, God continues to call women to vowed life with us.
We asked Noriko a few questions so we could get to know her better. Please keep her in prayer as she continues her journey!
Hometown: I was born in Tokyo in a Buddhist family with two younger sisters. We went to a Catholic elementary school in Tokyo, and only I was baptized among us.
Tell us about your educational background. I graduated from Gakusyuin University in Tokyo and majored in philosophy, especially Japanese Buddhism. I worked at the university and language academy as a Japanese language instructor. Most of my students were from Korea, China, Vietnam, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. I loved them very much and still keep in touch with some of them.
What attracted you to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet? I was attracted to the life of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet first. They seemed to be very active and sensitive to the needs of the present day. And then I started to learn the charism and the history of the congregation. The more I learn, the more they attract me.
What is your favorite movie? My favorite movie is Life is Beautiful. And I watched the new movie Just Mercy on the airplane. It touched me a lot!
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself. I have lived in Sudan and Bali in Indonesia. One is a Muslim country and the other is a Hindu island. And I have met students from many countries. Each one had a different culture. I am very familiar with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religious or non-religious people. I like to go to new places to meet people and learn about different cultures.
What are you reflecting on this Advent? I arrived here on the first Sunday of Advent. I am reflecting on the LIGHT which is always guiding me.
Life would not be as fun without what? Adventure. It doesn’t need to be the type like Indiana Jones. To meet new people, to learn new things, to eat new foods, to read new books, everything is an adventure for me.