Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Sustainable Development Goals and the Charism of the Sisters of St Joseph by Linda Pepe, CSJ

(This is a presentation that Sr. Linda made when 29 representatives from congregations of Sisters of St Joseph from around the world met this July.) 

I preface my remarks by saying the SGD’s are aspirations of well-meaning world leaders, but
Sr. Linda Pepe addresses the I-JPIC meeting 
this document contains no incentives to reach the targeted goals, and no consequences if the goals are not met.  As well intentioned as this document is, it relays on the good will of the signers to work toward the target goals, but as leadership in nations change so do the priorities and areas in which they put their efforts.  What “compels” national leaders to work towards their pledged targeted goals is the pressure of their citizens to hold leadership accountable.  When it comes to realizing the goals of this document, that pressure will only happen if the United Nations keeps before the citizens of the world the SDG goals and the commitment made by the signers.

I chose to answer the following:
       In the light of our Charism, what it important to highlight in the SDG’s?   Why?

[The SDG’s established 17 goals dealing with 6 major areas: 
Ø  People:  to ensure healthy lives, education, and the inclusion of women and children
Ø  Human Dignity: to end poverty and fight inequality
Ø  Prosperity: to grow a strong, inclusive and transformative economy
Ø  Justice: to promote safe and peaceful societies, and strong institutions
Ø  Partnerships: to catalyze global solidarity for sustainable development
Ø  Planet:  to protect our ecosystems for all societies and our children]

There are 17 goals set forth in this document, dealing with six major areas: People, Human Dignity, Prosperity, Justice, Partnerships and the Planet. The attainments of these goals are vital for the future of our world, but the majority requires the government’s efforts and determination to see that the goals are met.  Holding them accountable for their pledges can only be done if the citizens of these countries KNOW what pledges have been made. 

The first thing that I would highlight is the title –Sustainable Development Goals. What do we mean by Sustainable Development Goals?  What are “we” (the global “we”) trying to achieve and “who” is involved in this “we” of the SDG’s?  While we tend to react and respond to issues, sustainability requires that we get beneath the surface of the issues and examine the systems of power and voices that construct the systems that format the issues about which we are concerned.  Whether we are looking at economic issues, environmental issues or social issues, it is not enough to look at what is happening.  We must begin to look at the systems that are the underpinning of the issues, and ask how things have come to be the way they are, no matter where we look in the world.  Then we must learn to act, not simply react.

Our Charism of reconciliation and right relationship requires that we understand the underlining causes of injustice and work to make systemic change.  Quick fixes or band aid solutions will not achieve the targeted goals of the SDG’s.  If our world is to have a future, it requires an understanding of the past, the present and what needs to be accomplished or changed if all human beings are to have healthy societies and communities in the future.  Each of us has the challenge to seek to understand the relationship of the social, environmental and economic aspects of our own societies and how these aspects interact with communities and societies around the world.  Our challenge is to have a sense of the whole, even as we experience our own parts and pieces of that whole.  That sense of the whole requires that we move from seeing only from our own perspective or viewpoint, our piece of the social, environmental and economic aspects of the world and seek to understand the perspectives and viewpoints brought forth by other persons, communities and societies. Our own education is the first thing I would highlight.

That said, and I think our own education can be an ongoing process, there are a few goals that, in the light of our Charism, I think we can have an immediate impact on their development and progress. These are goals that are achievable, not by 2030, but in the near, if not immediate, future if we, as C/SSJ’s make a concerted effort to work to implement them, as well as hold our elected officials responsible for their pledges.  These are the goals that I would highlight because they require no government mandates or financial expenditures, but only the efforts of ordinary people, working in collaboration with organizations and agencies already dedicated to these goals.  Let’s not re-invent the wheel, when there are many well organized and legitimate organization who believe that the world can be a better place for all. We need to work with them, and add our voices and the voices of those we help empower, to make systemic changes. 

I would highlight the following:
Ø  #3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.  Where affordable healthcare
Sisters in Tanzania minister to those with aides.
is not present, we need to work toward this right for all peoples.  We need to promote the right of all peoples, regardless of race, economic status, gender preference, or age to equal healthcare.  This also includes working toward the elimination of poverty that often sentence children, who are born into poverty, to a less than healthy life.  It includes working toward clean water for all people, and an examination of our own individual use of this natural, but limited, resource.

Ø  #4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.  Education is the means by which all who acquire it can achieve a sense of dignity and self-worth in addition to lifting themselves out of poverty.  A decent education is the right of all children, and we should work to achieve that goal on local, national, and if the opportunity presents itself, international levels.  Discrimination in education is the result of social, economic, religious and racial prejudices.  The causes for the inequity in education needs to be addressed before the opportunity can exist.

Promotion of women in Burkina Faso
Ø  #5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. An educated society recognizes that in order to become sustainable all members of society must be functioning at their highest levels. As CSJ’s it is imperative that we continue to speak out against the violence against women and the inequities within society. The underpinning causes for gender bias or inequality, whether for economic, social or religious must be understood before we can address the injustice.  We must understand and respect cultures and traditions but that does not mean that we cannot work toward empowering women and girls to assume their rightful place in society.  This is incorporated in Goal #4 above.

Ø  #12- Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.   Even in the wealthiest or Global North countries there is great poverty and hunger.  We are all part of the consumption and production patterns.  This may be the easiest goal for us to work on because it requires a personal commitment to conserve, and use wisely or sparingly, the earth’s resources, i.e. among the most valuable are water and food.  This goal also requires us to support the farmers and food producers who are often squeezed out of business by large agricultural corporations with their genetically altered food products.  The Faire Trade movement comes to mind immediately, as well as our support of cottage industries in the various countries where our sisters live or are in ministry.

Ø  # 16 – Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.  What is within our control is the first part of this goal – peaceful and inclusive societies.  Racism and prejudice exist in each of our countries, cities and neighborhoods. Confronting or addressing prejudice can be done through education.  We have seen the ugliness of prejudice whether it be for reasons of race, religion, economic status, country of origin, or sexual orientation.  On an international level we only have to look within our own borders at the reception that today’s immigrants and refugees are receiving.  It is within our power to do something about this on a local or state level, and on a national level by holding our elected leaders accountable for the policies they enact, or for the lack of condemnation when policies or racial hatred is expressed.

I have chosen to highlight these goals because they do not require State mandates or the International Community’s approval.  These are doable goals, if we but have the will and desire to do them.

Friday, May 13, 2016

What's Emerging? Transitioning from Sage on Stage to Guide on the Side...

This past month I was able to participate at the UN with Justice Directors from many of our Federation Congregations. Also, Each week I am able to either write or secure stories for our website at As I engaged in these activities this month, a theme or perhaps a consciousness has floated to the surface of my awareness. It wasn't a totally new awareness for me. In education, I realized I needed to shift from "Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side." By doing this, we all learned a lot more. I am wondering in our (my) efforts on behalf of Justice such a shift might be in order? Here's a mind map of various experiences and thoughts that illustrate this awareness coming together for me.

What would this shift from, "Sage on Stage to Guide on the Side" look like for us in religious life or even those living in the U.S. with all the blessings and privileges we all enjoy each day? The bottom left quadrant speaks of an initiative that Mary O'Brien, CSJ shared that empowers those living in poverty to have a voice in telling their stories and advocating on their own behalf. How would our Justice Actions shift by our welcoming in and listening to those we seek to serve?

Since a blog can be an online space for thoughtful conversations, I encourage those who may read this post to share their comments and thoughts. How is or is this emerging for any of you? What do you think?
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Friday, May 6, 2016

CSSJs at the UN April 11-15, 2016 By Debbie Timmis, CSJ

April 11-15, 2016 I was privileged to be part of a Federation Delegation to the UN on the occasion of the 49th Commission on Population and Development. You can find the series of stories, pictures and videos below this post.
I am glad however to share on the Federation blog what this Event meant to me personally. (We had the chance to do this "Sharing of the Heart" the last day of our time together in the UNNGO office.) In the third article, "Sewing up the Loose Threads" Patsy Lucas speaks of being proud of our sisters at the Side Event on Migration which was sponsored by the Mission of the Holy See at the UN. What was truly remarkable for me was that there were two women speakers invited to be part of the panel and both were Sisters of St. Joseph - Sue Wilson, CSJ (Canadian Federation) and Eileen McCann,CSJ from Brentwood.Fr. Emeka Obiezu, the UN Representative for the General Curia of the Augustinian International, included words praising their (Sue Wilson and Eileen McCann) grass root efforts in the field of migration, immigration, human trafficking and protecting the rights of the undocumented. The next day, at the Mission of the Holy See, we were greeted by similar words of gratitude. We were also encouraged to hear that Pope Francis is encouraging advocacy on these issues as well. I was surprised and thrilled to know that these issues have become a priority for the Office of the Holy See as well as for the Sisters of St. Joseph who have been advocating these issues for years.

Sisters Mary Ellen Gondeck, Joan Atkinson, Sue Wilson, Colleen Dauerbach and Debbie Timmis
 A second take away for me from this time at the UN was this thought expressed by one of our speakers at the Side Event organized by our UNNGO - Justine Senapati "We have Commissions on Poverty but don't invite the Poor. We have Commissions on Migration and don't invite Immigrants"(Cristine Diez Saguillo - Eradication of Poverty) This thought gave me pause to reflect of what we do to empower those who live in poverty, immigrants and women. I am going to come back to this thought in another blog post soon, however, I mention this here because I think it's a key concept in our efforts.

In closing, I need to say how grateful I am for the effort of Justine, our UNNGO for organizing the Side Event where we were privileged to hear from five UNNGO on Migration, Human Trafficking, Social Development, Eradication of poverty and Mining. This experience was truly life changing for me!

  Sisters of St. Joseph from Canadian and US Federations at the UN  In Brief – These past three weeks, we have been running on the Federation website a ... read more

Part Two of our Three Part Series is submitted by Phyllis Tierney, SSJ (Rochester) This Side Event was an Afternoon Session UN NGO Side Event on Tuesday, April 12,2016. ... read more

Part One of a Three Part Series Migration, Human Trafficking and the Eradication of Poverty were among a few of the many topics discussed this week at the UN during ... read more

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Farewell to this Novitiate Year - By Patty Johnson, CSJ

Farewell to this Novitiate Year - Submitted by Patty Johnson, CSJ

For the closing ceremony of the novitiate, the novices demonstrated their integration of the year through a moving prayer service where they shared what they had learned through each aspect of their time together. 

Mary Anne Larocque - top right
Sr. Mary Anne Larocque speaking of gratitude began her reflection with Maxim 73.  She then shared these words.  “Our time in Concordia has been a grace filled opportunity to discover who we are and some of what God wants us to be…the essential ingredients for women entering religious life in the 21st

century are here…We go enhanced by all you have given us to live our lives as Sisters of St Joseph.”

Christina Brodie
Sr. Christina Brodie addressed the question, “What does it mean to be a Sister of St Joseph?”  She reflected that it requires being in communion with life, “As much as our humanness allows, we step back from our egos and replace it with love and awareness for the greater glory of our dear neighbor and the Divine.  All our creator and for that matter Medaille asks of us is to have the desire to be in full communion with life.”

Sr. Donna Smith shared a poem that she wrote during the year:


To be united with one another is what God asks of each of us through heart, body and soul.

To be united like a chain where there is no broken links.

A chain that is as long or as short as you wish.

This chain must reach out to all God’s people not just those close to us.

Yes, this chain may get heavy, but if each person in the chain reaches out as

God asks we will not notice the weight but we will notice the

LOVE and CARE for fellow human beings.

Where are we united?

Sister Donna Smith lends a hand during the weekend
decorating the Concordia Motherhouse in November 2015.
Where do we need to extend the chain?

Do we need to mend broken links?

Does this chain stop at us or can we build on it with all our Hearts, Bodies and Souls?

Can we be that chain of Unity that God asks us to be?

So as we stand here today before you I can surely say:

As Sisters of St Joseph the answer to these questions can be answered differently on a daily basis, but we can always answer yes to that final question.

“Can we be that chain of unity that God asks us to be?”

Patty Urbinelli
Sr. Patty Urbinelli offered her thoughts about the diversity of gifts of the Sisters of St Joseph, “We do what we are able, we go where we are needed, we overcome obstacles, we work for and with our dear neighbor, we empower others and we look for new ways to serve.”

Christine Carbotte
Sr. Christine Carbotte provided a humorous walk through of the classes and processes that the novices entered into this year.  She noted, “The novitiate was by no means a smooth or easy ride…this has been a gestation period with much rich food.  Now as I let go of this place I have this rich food to carry me forward and share on a continuing journey of sisterhood, personhood, life and ministry.  Thank you all for sharing this with me.”

Novitiate 2015-2016 Closing Ritual

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

There’s No Place Like Home (Temporarily in Kansas, But Seeking a Permanent New Home)

Six novices began their great adventure in Concordia, Kansas today.  We had a full day of orientation.  We introduced ourselves to each other and spoke about our various roles.  Mine is small and I will be returning to St Louis on Thursday to the US Federation Office but I leave behind a novice from St Augustine, Watertown, Concordia and three novices from Canada.  These beginnings
Manna House in Concordia, Kansas
The site of the Federation Novitiate for the
next two years
all remind me of my novitiate with a happy lingering memory. We closed this day  by watching the Wizard of Oz together and I was struck by the symbolism.

This intense period of introspection, contemplative prayer, and discernment that we call the novitiate has a goal of helping a woman determine if she is called to be a Sister of St Joseph.  There are helpful classes and it’s great to have a group with whom to share this experience but ultimately it is a journey of discovery that requires great honesty with yourself.  I am sure that there are moments during this period in Kansas when these women will be reminded of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, when she says, “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.”  They will question, they will notice, they will see things that they never saw before.  It is disorienting and challenging.  
Sr. Donna Smith, one of the Canadian
Novices composed the prayer to
your left
One of the novices wrote a prayer:

Dear St Joseph as we
Enter into our calling
To follow in your Footsteps of Spirituality, please
Guide us as you guided
Our Lord Jesus Christ,
With a loving heart and
Helping hands.  Lead us
In our faith that we may
Find our true calling
Through you to God the
Almighty Creator.
May God Bless each and
Everyone of us as we
Journey deeper into our Calling. Amen

At the end of their time together just like the Tin Man speaking to Dorothy, they will know what they have found- and they will know in a new and profound way, the life to which they are called. 
Tin Woodsman: What have you learned, Dorothy?

Dorothy: Well, I - I think that it - it wasn't enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em - and it's that - if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Honoring Sr. Mock, CSJ

Sr. Marcia Allen (Concordia CSJ) introduces
 Sr. Janet to  begin the ceremony
The 2015 Outstanding Leadership Award at LCWR was presented to Sr. Janet Mock, a Sister of St Joseph of Baden at the annual banquet last night.  Before the award, I had a chance to speak with Janet Mock.  She shared, “I am humbled to accept this award in the name of the whole conference [LCWR].  We all went through this together. It called the great depths out of all of us.  It is one of the most blessed events of my life.”

On stage, Sr. Janet's image was
projected on two large screens
During the tribute to Janet, it was obvious how her statement above is consistent with how she has approached her whole life.  During the tribute, one reader noted that Janet lives out of a call much greater than herself.  She believes that team leaders draw forth the best of each member of their team.  For Janet, leadership is only done as a community of equals.  In describing Janet, words such as creative, courageous, exceptional warmth, disarming openness were used.  Her entrepreneurial spirit and keen insights into the needs of religious were proclaimed.  Janet is a model of grace who relentlessly presumes good intent on the part of all.

Well wishers lined up the length of the
ballroom to congratulate Janet
In speaking of LCWR during the award ceremony Janet noted, “it was a team that listened carefully to its members,”  characteristically deflecting the significant role that she played in helping LCWR navigate the waters of the CDF.

Janet and Eileen McCann (Albany)
after the award
We 74 Sisters of St Joseph were proud to be present for the honoring of one so deserving who stepped up at such a critical time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Being at LCWR

I asked a few of our leaders what It means for them to be at LCWR.  Sr. Brenda Lau (Hawaii) shared, "It's a key source for meeting religious across the US and from other countries.  It is a union of sisters interested in carrying out the mission for the world.  For me, it is refreshing to return to these gatherings as a leader again."

Sr. Jeannie Masterson
Sr. Jeannie Masterson (Congregation of St Joseph) said, "I appreciate the networking, support, and collaboration to use our power together.  We draw inspiration from one another."

Sr. Pat Mahoney
Sr. Pat Mahoney (Brentwood) said, "The conversations among and between us in the context of the contemplative setting provided  us with a focus for essential exchange."

Sr. Jean Rosemarynoski (Concordia) offered, "It broadens the overview of religious life in the US.  The diversity from different regions, the networking opportunities, sharing of ideas and program information that we can use, the inspirational speakers, all recharge our batteries."

Sr. Katie Eiffe at LCWR Assembly 2015
Sr. Katie Eiffe (Carondelet- Albany) offered "We are being called to learn from our experience and move forward in service to God and the church."