In the middle of October, we celebrate Founders’ Day, memorializing the eight courageous pioneers who created our community in Le Puy, France. Father Médaille went where Jesuits were not allowed to go, gathering a group of women and helping them become a formal religious congregation. Bishop de Maupas, knowing that his hero, St. Francis de Sales, had been thwarted in a similar plan, approved the apostolic congregation to serve in his diocese—a decision that transgressed canon law as it expressed a counter-cultural appreciation of how women were capable of serving in the church. Our first sisters, knowing that others like them had been sent to the cloister, donned their widows’ garb and took to the streets to discern what God was asking of them through the Dear Neighbor. Our generation is hardly the first to take up the challenge to be bold!
Now, as we celebrate Founders’ Day, let us take a moment to remember our history and ask what the sisters who went before us would say to us today. They include Mother St. John Fontbonne who faced down the revolutionaries, the eight sisters who left Lyon for America, those who taught the children of the enslaved, the seven who first ventured into the wild west to serve the Native Americans, the sisters who went to establish the congregation in Hawaii, Japan and Peru, and in a unique way, the women who dared to be among the first to enter our congregation from those places. What would these sisters of ours say to us today from their perspective in eternity?
We’ve never heard their voices, but they continue to call us. They see the crisis of the Earth. They know we’ve inherited the interlocking systems of oppression that tyrannized their Dear Neighbors ages ago. They led the way for us to work with women and to use the power of our voices to reveal truths the powerful try to hide. They lived our vows authentically in their day and pray that we will do the same.
As we celebrate Founders’ Day, let us give thanks for each of the more than 8,000 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet whose faithfulness has brought us to this day. We ask them, 🎶“Pray for us from your place in the presence of God, inspire us, disquiet us, from your place in the presence of God.“🎶