Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Welcome to St Athanasius

Patty and Justine
Sr. Justine outside St Athanasius Convent
On August 1, 2014, eleven sisters at St Athanasius Convent in Brooklyn, New York became an even dozen as they welcomed Sr. Justine Senapati into their community and their hearts.  Sr. Justine, an Annecy sister from India, is the new Representative of the Congregations of St Joseph at the United Nations Non-Governmental Organization. 

Sr. Justine outside St Athanasius Convent
Justine and Betty
In early September, I came for my first on-site visit and it was obvious that Justine and the St Athanasius sisters were meant to be together.  The easy give and take, gentle teasing about Justine's preference for spicy food, and helpful advice has helped Justine make a smooth transition into her new position.  Whether it is a formal meal or just picking up breakfast, meaningful conversation occurs.  Justine noted that  coming from a large family and larger local communities in India, she really appreciates having other sisters around with whom to talk.  She has obviously picked up the rhythm of the house and fits right in.
Mass in the community chapel

Enjoying Indian food with the CSJ-UN-NGO staff, from left to right, Srs. Marianne, Justine and Barbara
She has met Indian nationals in the parish too who have welcomed her to their home for a meal and speak with her after Sunday mass.  The sisters keep introducing her to other people they know who have a national origin of India such as doctors and priests.  During my visit we went to an Indian Restaurant twice for lunch.

Sr Justine really enjoys this peaceful oasis in the middle of Brooklyn
Joining with the other sisters in cleaning up after a birthday celebration
St Athanasius is a very nice convent with a spacious community room, large kitchen with heavy duty appliances (with 12 that is needed), smaller parlors for visiting, a chapel, a small but lovely walled in outdoor space, and large dining room.  Justine has commented to me how important it is for her to be in touch with the earth, so having this small outdoor space in the middle of Brooklyn where she can see flowers and trees is very important.  

Justine's spacious bedroom
Justine has a large bedroom with an attached bathroom.  As I knocked on her bedroom door I could hear Indian music playing in the background.  The sisters at St Athanasius really appreciate what Justine shares about her native country, their customs, foods (she tones down the spices for the sisters), and her congregation.  As she was describing the number of younger sisters in India and how Justine is considered older in India, they were surprised.

Justine uses the subway like a pro
It is hard to imagine coming to another culture, speaking a different language, and really not knowing anyone very well.  How lucky Justine is to have such a welcoming group where she fits right in and can feel so at home.  There are so many values among the Sisters of St Joseph that cut across cultures.  One of the great things I get to experience in my position as Executive Director of the US Federation, is the "at-homeness" of being in so many different congregations across the globe.  I want to offer a special thanks to the Sisters of St Joseph of Brentwood who have welcomed Justine into their community life, as the Brentwood sisters at St Patrick Convent welcomed Griselda when she was the CSJ-UN-NGO Representative.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ongoing Efforts at the Border

I received this email from Sr. Ida this morning that I wanted to share with you.  Patty

I don't know how interested you might be in the "intertwineing" of our CSJ communities, but some facts might be helpful.   From July 7, to August 15, I was "housemother" to the sisters who came to El Paso to help in the refugee/immigrant shelters there and in Las Cruces, N.M.  serving thousands of refugees sent to El Paso by ICE (Immigrant Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security).  Many sisters living in El Paso were already serving in the shelters since the national emergency began in early June.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, desiring to make a contribution to assist in the emergency,  offered their house as a residence for any sisters who could come and help for a period of time, long or short.  It is a ten bedroom house that the congregation was considering selling. In July the last sister of the community had moved out; nevertheless, a number of circumstances, including the need for the house in this national emergency helped the Concordias decide to keep the house.

As there was no one of the Concordias able to be in the house at this time, knowing that my familiarity with El Paso  and the house, Sr. Marcia Allen, president of the Concordias accepted my offer to care for the house and the hospitality services needed until someone could be found from that community.   Through the goodness of  our province, I was able to go to El Paso on July 7, rent a car (which was invaluable in many, many ways) and "housemother" this beautiful, centrally located house which the Concordias had so generously offered.

 During my time at the wonderful, well cared-for house of the Concordias, we were able to house IHMs from Scranton, Pennsylvania; Sacred Hearts from Athens, Georgia; an Adrian Dominican from Key West, Florida; Fred and Pat Malcolm from Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sinsinawa Dominicans from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and CSJs from St. Louis.

 While I was in El Paso, phone calls were many and constant from those wanting to to know how they could be of help. Yesterday I received a call from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, wondering how they could offer a donation to assist with some of the expenses of caring for the refugees.  It was my joy to be able to direct their help to this effort which enables so many families and sisters and communities to respond to Jesus' call to  all of us to welcome the stranger.

If I can be of any help with further information, Patty, let me know.



P.S. Missy (Margaret Mary Ljungdahl) who was a long time resident at the house and is now working at the Concordia's center for long-term care, was able to be released for a bit of time. She doesn't know for how long.  She came last Monday night and I left Friday.  Marcia thinks they'll have someone temporary until January and then a community will come down.  I go back in a few weeks for an Annunciation House board meeting and will stay in the house for a few days again.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Crisis at the Border from Sr. Sandy Straub, St Louis

S. Sandy  Straub’s Diary -Day 2 On the Border Saturday July 12,2014
Sr Sandy Straub is writing to us from the border where she is volunteering at Annunciation House (see their excellent video on our home page to learn what happens there)

Srs. Sandy and Ida

Off to the center we went, Pat and Fred and me.  Ida had many Housemothers chores to do!  And I mean many.  We are currently five here with 2 more coming tomorrow and S. Marsha Allen and companion on Tuesday. The center was very busy with single mothers and children.  They mainly came from El Salvador and Honduras. The center is very well organized with many bilingual church related volunteers.  Their spirit is contagious and welcoming.
 I happened to say to someone ..I was free to go.  Quickly, the response was, you are skilled,  blessed and sent!  I am remembering this as I walk the halls and meet the families.  I have the thought that I am giving the ministry of presence to whomever I meet.  Those thoughts ..sent by CSJ and friends, joyful companions, good place to come home to, bubbled up in my gratitude prayer this morning.
 Let me share some stories from today:

 I talked with a 20year old mom who came with her one month old baby girl, Victoria.  She is desperate to make something for her baby.  She said when she got to the Mexican border 30 people were clumped together to cross the river.  The water was waste high and filthy. She carried her baby, paid the Mexican and came over to be met by border patrol.  She was processed sent to El Paso.  None are told where they are going...I think that is for protection.  She is off to Houston by bus 12 hour ride to be with her sister.

 Another mother with her pre teen girl told a similar story. However when she arrived on our border they had her throw everything away.  She got to keep only her bible.  Unfortunately her daughter had a Guadalupe medal and chain in a bag and that was lost when they had to leave their belongings .  She teared up when she talked about leaving her very sick mother with her17 year old daughter.  She will go to New York by bus with very little.

  A happy story... Two young women brought craft things for the guests to make.  They spread it all out on the table and the mothers began to make cards and bracelets, using glitz and beads.  One woman said she had nothing and she wanted to make a pretty bracelet to look pretty for her husband who was meeting her at the plane.   And she looked radiantly happy and pretty when she left.
 I have never been hugged so much since Peru!!!!!!  So much more in one day to talk about , but I need to go.   Ida is a delight and what a model!

  Love Sandy

Crisis at the Border from Our Sisters in Los Angeles

US/Mexican Border
We have all heard of the plight of many women and children who are crossing the border in Texas, California and Arizona.  They are coming mostly from Central America.  During one of the retreats held in June, it was suggested for some of us to be “first responders."  Sr. Loraine Polacci  and Isabel Malloy, CSJA from San Francisco, have responded by volunteering for  the month of July to work with Catholic Community Services in Tucson and Nogales with their program of migrant  women and children.  We as a province also have sent a monetary donation to the Catholic Community Service in Tucson.

Loraine and Isabel volunteered and received the following response from Tucson:

Your Sisters are needed!    I was at a meeting today with Bishop in the lead, the Mayor and 20 plus others from agencies, MX Council, and so on. One thing came up, that the Border Patrol is mostly men…and so they don’t have enough women to take on the “womanly” care of the children that is needed – relationship wise.  Welcome to the Sisters!

From Loraine:

…Dear Theresa, Isabel and I arrived safely in Tucson Sat. afternoon.  Judy Bourg, SSND is staying overnight as well.  She works with the migrant center in Douglas, and once a month does the "water drop" at strategic migrant areas.  This morning Isabel went with her.  I am staying with Michelle Humke to sort out what we both know.  Michelle says there is a meeting at CSS tomorrow about the sheltering in Tucson around the 4th.

…Yesterday we went to Nogales to a Red Cross training.  Volunteers will assist unaccompanied youth make phone calls to family--in their home country or their relative who will accept them here---  Great training with very good guidelines to protect the volunteer as well as the youth. 

 …Last night we went to the catholic social services training.  Volunteers will accompany women, their children and pregnant women who have been dropped at the greyhound bus station, to get to the right bus. Also house overnight those whose bus does not leave until the next day.

It feels good to finally have something concrete to do.  We are going to the bus station today for some more training. 

 I am so grateful for your prayers and support. 


Monday, July 14, 2014

Crisis at the Border- Update from Sr. Judy Stephens- Concordia

 Mural painted by visitor to Columban Fathers house.  S. Esther
Pineda is seated
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas organized a trip to El Paso in early July to learn firsthand the reality of the situation at the border now.  The group included seven women:  a laywoman from Topeka, KS, a CSJ from Wichita, KS, and five CSJ’s from Concordia.

The week spent in El Paso was a powerful one.  Our visits to Annunciation House, Opportunity Center, the Farmworkers Center, the Columban Fathers and Pius X parish brought us into the
Detention Center for children in east El Paso.  We spent the
afternoon there with 35 children, ages 5 - 15
midst of the crisis of unaccompanied children from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.  We were able to spend time with children in the detention centers through a program organized by Pius X parish and immigration officials.  It was a heart-breaking but meaningful experience that we will not forget. 

The situation at the El Paso/ Juarez border is very fluid.  When ICE [Immigration & Customs Enforcement] has processed children who have been picked up by the Border Patrol and needs assistance providing for the children, they contact agencies willing to care for them until family members claim them or they are moved to Detention Centers.  These children are placed in process for deportation, unless they can prove before the immigration judge (which may be years from now) that they are refugees in need of asylum. For a while El Paso was overwhelmed with plane loads of children and was in dire need of volunteers.  When we left El Paso on July 8, the situation was improving.  Ruben Garcia from Annunciation House has been the contact person for ICE in this process. 
This group from Pius X parish in El Paso works with children from

Our convent at 1837 Grandview Ave. has been opened for volunteers.  Sister Ida Berresheim from Carondelet, St. Louis has generously offered to be there and coordinate activities.  She is currently on the board for Annunciation House and works closely with Ruben Garcia.

If you have interest in volunteering in El Paso, please contact S. Ida at 314-630-0210.  The phone number at the convent is 915-532-7452. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Meeting the President of ECOSOC

Thursday was the day for us to go into New York City and meet with the Austrian ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Martin Sadjik, who is the president of ECOSOC (The Economic and Social Caouncil).  We began the day with rain, fog and a bus delayed by 1½ hours because of mechanical problems.  Everyone was in good spirits while we waited for the bus, and Griselda, who had organized everything, adjusted the time schedule with the help of friends.

Sr. Griselda introduces Austrian
Ambassador Sadjik
The sun greeted us in New York City where we met with the president of ECOSOC  who spoke with us about the post-2015 UN agenda.  He began by noting that the economic divide between the developed and developing countries is narrowing while the economic divide between the wealthy and the poor in developed countries is widening. This economic inequity is one issue which cries out to be addressed.  He then went on to say that with the 2015 deadline to reach the Millennium Development Goals fast approaching, the UN is looking to the next steps.  An open committee has gathered priorities for the following 15 years, which embrace many needs not addressed by the MDG’s.  These include such things as urban development, life-long education and energy from sustainable sources, as well as many of the issues addressed in the MDG’s.  The areas of concern looking to 2030 will be 15 or 16 and articulated in what will be called Sustainable Development Goals and include many concerns left out of the Millennium Development Goals. 
Sr. Patty presents the Statement to the

After the talk by the Austrian ambassador, Patty Johnson presented the Statement of the Congregations of St. Joseph at the UN on Engagement in Action for Systemic Change with a view to sustainable development and gave Mr. Sadjik a copy.   Following this, during lunch, many of the group took advantage of his presence
Sr. Susan, Australia, speaks about
issues in East Timor
for informal conversation with him.  

On Tour at the U N
In the evening there was a little time to
walk around and explore New York
Later in the afternoon we had the opportunity for a guided tour of the United Nations, where we learned once again about the history and the work of the UN, while visiting the chambers where much of the work is done.  After the day of rich experiences we returned tired but happy to our Brentwood “home,” ready for some rest as we prepared for our last day together.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

From Contemplation to Action

Sr. Mimose from Haiti lights the candle
Sr. Griselda shows us the weaving
we have put together over the days
Wednesday morning was a time for the JPIC group to reflect on what they had heard and how their   Gathered around symbols which reflected the process of weaving a fabric from threads of different qualities and colors, Gloria Philip and Griselda Martinez Morales reflected on the great wealth of our diversity, which is both a challenge and a blessing.  After joining in a song from the Saint-Vallier community which was a call to be one, the group was invited to enter into their hearts while moving around the symbols   This was followed by an hour of silent reflection followed by a time of sharing what each held in her heart.
in silence. Then those gathered were led in a dance of weaving, hand to hand and eye to eye.
hearts were speaking.

Gathered around the computer from left
to right are Srs Rita (Argentina), Sr Jeannette
(Algeria), Sr Marie Pierre (Haiti) and Sr.
Graziella (Italy)
Sr. Jeannette from Algeria addresses
the group
In the afternoon, the group, gathered in language groups, addressed the question of what they as a  Every group had its own individual process and focus, with great variety in ideas while some suggestions were common to several groups.  Among the needs that were articulated were:  communication both within the group and with a broader public, a co-ordinating group to organize and carry the work forward, a kind of structure that would lead to action, greater collaboration and formation for our sisters in justice issues.  One table raised a question regarding how those gathered understood the concept of “working together.”  Does it mean collaborating on a single project, strategizing, developing documents and addressing together a single issue?  Or does it mean each one working in her own way, in her own context on a single topic the group has identified?
group needed to be for the life of the world.

These questions and insights will be brought to the table on Friday, when the threads will be drawn together and plans for the work of JPIC will be drawn up.