Thursday, October 12, 2017

A New Way

I see a vision in 2030 of women not necessarily vowed religious, living in community, either actually in a Residence
together or at least that gather and pray daily and serve in ways determined by the need of the adjacent communities residents.  I see this as a sort of Beguine type experience where the ingress and egress of women in the daily work of the community is fluid, as in some live together. Some live with their families but pray and work with the community daily or mostly daily.  I would think the population this type of arrangement would appeal to is the older woman or the mid life woman who's children are nearly grown or who never had children.  Meaningful work and prayer would be the hallmarks of such a community.

How the sisters of St Joseph live now is close to this, however  I propose Incorporating non vowed laywoman in the community residences and daily community work and prayer, that this will help the charism live on and provide a
structure for it without the requirement of traditional training, novitiate and taking the formal vows of chastity, obedience and poverty.  The associates ceremony could be a good replacement for that.  There is so much more to figure out but convents could be full again of prayerful women who find strength in community but did not feel called to or didn't respond to a calling to religious life earlier in life.
Respectfully committed, Catherine Roberts, CSJA

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Religious Life for a Sister of St Joseph in 2030- My Sense of What Marcia and Mary are Talking About

I discard the old narrative- we are not dying, we are transforming ourselves and it is happening in ways I did not necessarily expect.  When I look out of the corner of my eyes at the periphery on the horizon I seen amazing things happening and they do begin to paint a picture of deeper communion.
Three words come to me when I imagine us in 2030: flexible, collaborative, and engaged. 

Sr. Marcia Allen at LCWR
TRENDS software indicates that maybe we will be 6 congregations in 2030.  I don’t know about that but what I believe strongly is that we will find a way as a Federation to support each other as our numbers of consecrated religious decline but our focus on and commitment to the charism and the mission continues to expand.  It may be that we have covenant relationships or mergers but what I imagine is that we will create new structures that enable us collaboratively manage the day to day in an effective way while innovating new ways to engage with those who join us as agrégées, associates, friends, partners in mission, and consecrated religious to see the big picture.  I cannot imagine being a Sister of St Joseph without these powerful alliances with the women and men who also claim our charism.  The flexibility to invent what we need to move into the future will be the hallmark of our collaborative style.

Speaking of collaboration, I imagine us forging new collaborations with people we do not yet know about issues that have not yet emerged.  Where we are needed, we will put our energy and focus. No longer do we need to be the leaders and have our name on everything we touch.  However, where we chose to spend our time our energy, resources, and zeal will be felt.
Sr. Mary Pellegrino delivers her
Presidential Address at LCWR 

International relationships are an essential element of our life in communion.  As we are smaller, we will know each other including our Sisters of St. Joseph around the world.  The US needs us to hold a global view and be able to speak with credibility about issues such as caring for the earth, global poverty, and emerging spiritualties.  We are stronger in all these areas when our global vision is formed through genuine relationships especially with those from the global south.  

Jean Pierre Medaille S.J. left us the legacy of the two trinities, the maxims and the 6 virtues. These can only really be understood as mystical documents.  Through our ongoing contemplation of these initial documents and our reading of the signs of the times, we will be able to communally discern a future together with all our partners.

Friday, August 11, 2017

LCWR Presidential Address

Mary began her address with a funny
story about how she was named
Sister Mary Pellegrino, the President of LCWR and a Baden Sister of St Joseph began her presidential address by reminding us that stories are important- they carry memories and contain grace.  Stories may or may not be true, complete or fully informed.  Sometimes stories evolve as new information becomes available.
Mary challenged the intent listeners to disrupt the old narrative- the old story about diminishment in religious life with a new story that is more complete, telling both our historical accomplishments and our failures and emerging sense of communion.  There is a new vitality in religious life and it is global. The diversity in ethnic make-up and country of origin of sisters in the US and globally is changing.  As we grow in communion, there is much for us to learn.

Sr. Teresa Maya thanks Mary for her
powerful presentation
Mary reassured us, “Our future has already entered us, is already transforming itself in us.  Our work in this house is to let the former things pass so that the future – already in our blood – can happen… I believe that tending our grief over our own many and great losses and over the heartbreak of the world, clinging to the gossamer-thin veil at this threshold between loss and revelation and inviting others to do that with us is one of the most generous and generative acts of service that we could possibly render for our grieving sisters, for our hurting neighbors, for our broken world.” 
Click here to read Mary’s entire presentation.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Day 1 LCWR- Key Note Speaker Chris Pramuk

Quoting from a range of African American writers, poets and musicians, Chris Pramuk led the LCWR through his musings that music is a metaphor for our spiritual journey. Referring to Thomas Merton he noted that music makes us vulnerable to texts that can then more fully open us. He spoke of the power of the African spirituals to open us to one another with a fascinating juxtaposition of vulnerability and power.  Words of spiritualities become as sacraments, instruments of real presence.
Chris Pramuk shared powerful insights


Chris spoke about the difference that keys make in declaring emotions in music.  It is the minor keys that touch him the most.  Those African spiritualities sung in minor keys are those that are much less sure of themselves. They speak of the grief of the past and the present and ask a question both hopeful and uncertain of the future.  It is in that hope and uncertainty that resonates with our human experience and struggles.
Piano has been a lifelong way for Chris
to experience the Divine.  He creatively
shared that gift with us

With words, Chris painted vibrant visual images and with music he engaged us in a creative way that allowed us to easily enter into the challenges that he was presenting.  Quotes from Fredrick Douglas, DeBlois and Fumi Tosu challenged us to let go of our fear of death.  Bono’s postmodern spiritual written for the mothers of the disappeared told the story of how the dead live among us and are real for us.  These words and songs “can plunge us into the liminal space between life and death” he shared.  He offered that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached himself through his fear of death in his last sermon before he was assassinated.

The large group then broke into smaller “deepening groups” to delve more deeply into what was said and what it offered to us.
Some of the learnings shared at the beginning of the afternoon session were:
  •  Songs in a minor key can vividly help us actively remember the past and kindle hope in an uncertain future, if we can let go of our fear
  •  The spirit speaks through everything and maybe especially in our experience of pain, loss
  • Acknowledging the vulnerability of our own lives and those with whom we minister.  That might be where our power may be
  • Sense of communion which we share with the suffering and joy-filled world
  • Expectation, movement- we may be called to action, what might the world be calling us to do?
  •  Real sense/passion to move forward in hope and with courage, the name of what has not yet been given but may emerge  
  • Fear, loss, and diminishment is real but there is a sense that there is energy and excitement for the next. The call is to live, to be a presence
  • Spirituality of music- what songs are our congregations singing- what are the words of those songs, the words and the melodies can be transformative- if they are the words that resonate with our reality
  • Dissonance in the music is the time that musicians are challenged the most to bring the best of their instrument forward.
For the rest of the afternoon, the LCWR will meet in closed session to make directional and structural decisions and to hear from the candidates for the President-Elect.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Preparing for Le Puy

Preparing to spend the next two years at the International Centre in Le Puy has been a mix of excitement, detachment and hard work over these past two months. At times I felt as though I were free floating in space and at other times I was just focused on getting things done.
Olga on a field trip to the Confluence Museum in Lyon
 while studying at language school

The opportunity to live and work in France has been a lifelong dream and when it seemed as though I’d never finish emptying my condo, dealing with paperwork or packing light, I’d think about that dream and keep moving.

I thought I lived simply in my three-story condo, but found out I had accumulated much stuff over the years. So I divided my worldly goods into four groups: things to sell, things to give away, things to store, things to take with me to France. Since I calculated that upon my return to the USA I would live in a much smaller living space, it was easier to detach myself from my 54-inch dining room table. Electronic equipment might not survive two years of storage, so out that went. Clothes that had been hanging in my closet for years without use were obvious give-aways. However, the hardest things to unload were the countless scrapbooks of photos, published newspaper and magazine articles, travel slides and many books, so I saved them together with my bulky TV that had both DVD and video capability.

Then there was my car. While it was going to a good cause (my friends were giving the car to their 25-year-old niece who is trying to recover from her drug addiction and start her life again) and I was getting my hoped-for price for it, it meant a loss of freedom of movement and maybe a bit of my identity since it was a distinctive boxy car that looked like a toaster. Since my car was one of the last things I did in this whole down-sizing process, perhaps it made me face the reality that I was leaving everything familiar and about to steep myself in a new culture, a new language, a new continent and a new experience.  Once I step on that plane, however, I’ll be ready for a new adventure, a new identity and a new way of life, so I’m up for the task!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

ACOF Convocation: Designing Relationships for Mission: Affirming Leadership, Claiming our Future

St. Louis associates at the Motherhouse for
 “The Lace Is Not Finished” workshop, May 2017
Submitted by Andrea Pearson Tande, Consociate, St Paul

Associates, Consociates, Ohana, and Familia de San Jose (ACOF, or lay associates) from all Provinces of the Carondelet Congregation are looking forward to our upcoming convocation, where we will come together to celebrate our common heritage and support leadership for our future. ACOF members from St. Louis, Los Angeles, Albany, St. Paul, Hawaii and Chile will be in attendance at this convocation, which is to be our first in more than two decades.

We will gather from June 22-25, 2017, at Fontbonne University in St. Louis MO, with a special welcome event at the CSJ mother house.

Keynote speakers include Shawn Madigan,CSJ, and Carrie Arnold, St. Louis Associate.
Associates prepare for a reception hosted during 
the 2017 Los Angeles Province Assembly.
  names: back to front left: Denise Ginty, Janne Shirley, 
Dianne Nelson; right: Sr. Irma Araneta, Linda Stapleton.
Theme: Grounding ourselves in CSJ Spirituality and History and preparing ourselves for the future.

Please keep convocation participants in your prayers as we prepare for this historic event. 

St Louis Associates at the annual meeting October 2016

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Creating the future God Desires By Rita Woehlcke SSJ

As Sisters of Saint Joseph, we enter the New Year more sure of and committed to God’s desire, that all may be one. “Like our First Sisters, we are “eyes wide open, ears attentive, spirit alert, sleeves rolled up” * to heal the divisions of our day. With you, we look at the world God loves and see a country divided, a crisis of what media to trust, a world of devastating piecemeal wars, orphaned children, countless refugees, festering pockets of hate and a resistance to what science is telling us about the plight of Earth. Violence and threat are palpable. It is easy to be overwhelmed and paralyzed by the scope of the needs, and that can block us from the small but great good we can accomplish where we are.

Sr. Rita Woehlcke
We believe God desires a different future and that we sisters and you who love our mission are all God has and exactly who God wants to help make God’s dream a reality. We hear the challenge:

“The human heart can go to the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes.
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us ‘til we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake for pity’s sake?”

“A SLEEP OF PRISONERS” from the play with that title, by Christopher Fry, 1951

And so the question looms, “How big is my soul?” Our first sisters physically felt the hunger, the miseries of 17th century France. They were ONE WITH. Our lives prepare us for the same heartfelt connections. What heartbreak and loss have stretched my heart so that I feel and know the grieving parents and widows of the Middle East? What personal trauma creates solidarity in me with all who suffer oppression, derision or shame, simply for being who they are? What debt of gratitude for unmerited blessings I have received binds me to those in need of my blessing?

While the Sisters of Saint Joseph are grateful for your appreciation of their spirit and good works, we are longing for more than admiration. We are longing for you to be one with us, God and all our dear neighbors. Join us in “exploration into God”— not through big projects, but by building daily relationships of reverence through the practice of non-violence.

Pope Francis wrote this message for the 50th World Day of Peace on January 1, 2017:

On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms. Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not all.

“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers.” [24] In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.” [25]

With Pope Francis, with you, we, Sisters of Saint Joseph, can say, “Thank God we have one another, this mission and our ever faithful God to help us be more great-hearted than we dared to dream, ask or imagine.

Rita Woehlcke SSJ ministers as Director of SSJ Associates in Mission.