Sunday, September 25, 2016

Grand Opening of the Center of Living History of the Sisters of St Joseph by Sr. Michele Beiter

The  Centre of the Sisters of St. Joseph Living History is set up as a scenography, in
which different methods are used such as: artifacts, pictures that when touched show a script,
The Global Coordinating Group got a preview before the grand opening
earphones, printed scripts on wall, etc.  I could chose among five languages to use: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian.  I used my senses of touch, sight, feel and hearing.  It was an experience I never had before. I felt like I had been transposed back before when we were founded in 1650.

Screens told what was going on in the

It was especially helpful that the beginnings and growth of the Sisters of St. Joseph were always set within the context of what was going on in France politically, the Church and otherwise.  I was surprised that there seemed to be so many wars/conflicts.
Early Constitution
A multimedia experience of our history
After we were founded in 1650, there were 16 more communities by 1661.  There was a wave of sometimes growth and other times fewer vocations. 

I enjoyed experiencing the years not only of our founding, but the history of the LePuy Congregation up to recently when It became part of the Institute. 
Touch screens reveal our story

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Louvre Museum

Usually I use this blog to tell you about places I go that are connected with my work at the US Federation of the Sisters of St Joseph.  Today’s entry is a little bit of a stretch since I am here in Paris on vacation- 4 days.  However, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the fact that I am heading to Le Puy for the International Center Board Meeting and the Global Coordinating Group.  While here in Paris, Sr. Michele Beiter and I went to the Louvre Museum. 
They have these fun self-guided theme tours.  We chose to go to the Da Vinci Code tour which visits many works of art and places referenced in the novel and the movie.  This ended up being a very fun way to tour the Louvre without feeling overwhelmed by the volume of paintings and artifacts that are on display there.  So, we will share the information from the guided tour and our impressions.

From the Tour: Visit the Louvre in the footsteps of the heroes of the novel and the movie The Da Vinci Code, exploring the places, works, and themes at the heart of the story.  The excerpts from the tour are taken from the website at  All the pictures you see here are from my following the Museum Tour. 

Forty years after the French television series Belphégor, the Musée du Louvre and its collections have once again become the setting for, and the protagonists in, a rich work of fiction following the publication in 2003 of the novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and the release in 2006 of the movie, filmed in part in the museum’s galleries by the director Ron Howard. The trail that we have created for you provides an amusing tour of the museum in the footsteps of the “symbologist” Robert Langdon and the cryptologist Sophie Neveu, the main characters of The Da Vinci Code. Without taking sides either for or against The Da Vinci Code, we will evaluate some of the key themes and rectify some of the exaggerations. Although the selection of things to see in the trail will no doubt be obvious to those who have read the book or seen the movie, it should enable everyone to see the Louvre in a new and amusing light, providing both a historical and literary perspective.

The trail begins in the Hall Napoléon, which is located under the Pyramid. At the beginning of The Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon, like the museum’s seven million visitors each year, enters the Louvre through the Pyramid, which was inaugurated in 1989. The figure of 666 panes of glass given for the Pyramid is incorrect: it is the repetition of a rumor that was spread in the mid-1980s by people opposed to its construction, 666 being the number of the beast in the Book of Revelation. In reality, the Pyramid is made up of 673 diamond-shaped and triangular panes of glass, excluding the doors.

Patty:  The pyramid dome is amazing.  In some ways it is out of place in that its architecture is so different from the buildings of the Louvre.  However, it does allow for easy single point access to the museum and is easy to find.

Michele:  I was excited to start this self- guided tour related to the Da Vinci Code in the Pyramid.  For a change it was more open to enter through the panes of glass instead of solid walls of most other buildings.

 From the Tour: Kore from the Cheramyes group, known as the "Hera of Samos"

The highly novelistic theme of The Da Vinci Code is linked to the principle of the sacred feminine, or in other words, goddess worship. This was a key part of ancient religions which, according to the novel, Christianity during the early centuries of its existence set out to suppress by erasing the memory of Mary Magdalene. A brief visit to the Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities will reveal where the novelist’s idea came from. This statue carved by Cheramyes, whose dedication to the goddess Hera is engraved on the vertical edge of the cloak, is a famous example of a kore, a feminine votive statue. Sister and wife of Zeus and mother of, among other children, their son Ares, Hera exemplifies the concept of the sacred feminine which, as this statue demonstrates, was worshipped by the ancient religions. The large sanctuary on the island of Samos, where the work was situated, was claimed to be the site of the wedding between Zeus and Hera. Indeed, the ancients were not short on details when it came to the conjugal or amorous adventures of their gods and goddesses. Even though they were goddesses, Ishtar in Mesopotamia, Isis in Egypt, and Aphrodite in Greece nonetheless had private lives. The Da Vinci Code uses this idea as its starting point, audaciously transposing it to Christianity, making Mary Magdalene the secret companion of Jesus.

Patty:  I was intrigued by this statue.  In looking at the picture, it was not as obvious to me as when I saw it in person.  It is a headless statue of a woman, beautifully detailed.  I could not find the engraving on her cloak mentioned above.

Michele: I was enlightened to see this statue and understand its connectedness to the sacred feminine, even though headless!!

From the Tour:  The staircase of the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Arago medallion

The views of the staircase of the Winged Victory of Samothrace are no doubt the most famous in the Louvre. Try and imagine what it is like here once all the rooms have been emptied of visitors and the doors have been closed for the night. In the half-light and the silence, the museum enters a kind of slumber that has for long haunted the lovers of mystery. The author of The Da Vinci Code, who makes extensive use of the nighttime setting of the Louvre, understood this very well. Mentioned at the end of the novel, the bronze medallions 12 centimeters in diameter are supposed to mark the inconspicuous “Rose Line,” which enables Langdon to intuit the presence of the grave of Mary Magdalene near the Louvre. This fictional interpretation transforms a geographical marker (the Paris meridian) into an esoteric symbol (the “Rose Line”). In reality, the Arago medallions, of which there are fifteen in and around the museum, are part of a contemporary work of art created in 1995 by the Dutch artist Jan Dibbets. In all, there are 135 Arago medallions in Paris, forming a north-south line that crosses the capital from the Porte de Montmartre to the Cité Universitaire, passing through the Observatoire on the exact path of the old universal meridian of Paris, which they commemorate. Embedded in the ground or in buildings, they are named after the astronomer and politician François Arago (1786–1853), who redefined the position of the Paris meridian in 1806, before it was replaced by the Greenwich meridian in 1884.

Patty:  I had to go back to the stairway to find the Argo medallion which I passed right by on my way to the Winged Victory.  A real big part of the enjoyment of this tour was the hunt for what was described.  The
Winged Victory is an impressive statue that is commanding at the top of the stairs.  I felt drawn to it.

Michele:  Like Patty, I was drawn to this statue, especially because of its placement at the top of the stairs that caught my attention.  I just wanted to sit and contemplate what it was saying to me.

From the Tour:  The Salon Carré

In the 18th century, the Salon Carré, one of the most prestigious rooms in the museum, was used for temporary exhibitions of contemporary painting. It lent its name to the generic term of “Salon,” which has since become the word in France for a temporary exhibition or trade fair, such as the Salon du Livre, Salon de l’Agriculture, and Salon du Tourisme. It was also the first room in the Muséum Central des Arts (the first name of the Musée du Louvre) when it opened to the public in 1793. It was here that the paintings regarded at the time to be the most admirable works in its collections were displayed. In the novel and the movie The Da Vinci Code, the curator Jacques Saunière dies in the nearby Grande Galerie, yet the black star-
Grand Gallery
shaped motifs that can be seen on the parquet around his body are only present at the Louvre in the Salon Carré, which was also where the killer, Silas, was standing. Between the two is a metal gate that Saunière had activated by tearing a painting by Caravaggio from the wall. If you look up at the doorframe separating the Salon Carré from the Grande Galerie, you can see that there is no gate at this precise spot (although there are some at other locations in the Louvre). Furthermore, Caravaggio’s paintings in the Louvre are actually located three quarters of the way down the Grande Galerie and not, as in the novel, 15 feet from this door. The author of The Da Vinci Code has, as so often in his book, altered the real topography for the purposes of his narrative.

Patty:  I really enjoyed finding each of these items.  The floor patterns probably would not have even caught my attention, as with the Argo Medallion, if I were not looking for them.

Michele: These rooms were very intriguing and filled with paintings, making it hard to find the designated ones.    Eventually, I found them. 

 From the Tour:  The Virgin of the Rocks

The spectacular Grande Galerie in the Louvre plays an important role in the novel The Da Vinci Code, providing the setting for the beginning of the story. Far more remarkable than the parquet flooring with its chevron patterns mentioned in the book is the collection of Italian paintings. Four of the five paintings by Leonardo da Vinci in the Louvre are on display here. The Da Vinci Code analyzes The Virgin of the Rocks (which Sophie Neveu removes from the wall) in a new and subversive way. It suggests that Mary holds in her
left hand the invisible head of Mary Magdalene, whose neck is being symbolically sliced by the gesture of the Archangel Uriel on the right. Leonardo was thus supposedly showing the Church’s conspiracy against Christ’s companion during the early centuries. This far-fetched interpretation of the painting might have been inspired by the work of Bernardino Luini just to the left: Salome Receiving the Head of Saint John the Baptist. In reality, Mary’s mysterious gesture relates to traditional religious iconography: Mary is the mother of Jesus, but she is also the incarnation of the Church, the “house.” In the painting, therefore, she seems to be covering the head of her Son with her left hand, as if with a roof. The Da Vinci Code thus transformed a gesture of protection into a metaphorical representation of murder. This powerful literary effect is a travesty of art history.

Patty:  The Grand Gallery is filled with religious art that really doesn’t grab me. However, when I was in Mexico last year for the Meeting of the Latin American Sisters of St Joseph I had the opportunity to go to the Basilica of Our Lady of Gaudalupe.  While touring Sr. Griselda Martinez-Morales pointed out to me that the paintings that tell the story of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe were done to assist those to whom she had appeared, the native people who did not read, to have a way to remember and keep her story alive for future generations.  So as much as this religious art at the Louvre did not speak to me, I appreciate the fact that it was illustrative of many religious stories and the interpretation of how God and Jesus were seen in this period of history.  Many of the faithful could not read the bible so this was a way of transmitting the faith.

Michele:  I had a hard time with these paintings and making the connections

Virgin and Child with Saint Anne

This painting by Leonardo da Vinci is included in our trail because in 1910 it was the subject
of an astonishing study by Sigmund Freud (“Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood”), who dared to discern in it motifs hidden from ordinary mortals. Freud saw in the Virgin Mary’s garment a bird of prey (a vulture) and interpreted it as an unconscious rediscovery by Leonardo of the myth of Mut, the vulture goddess of Egypt. This analysis, which has been controversial since the day it was published, opened up a new avenue in the history of pictures: that of their over-interpretation, something The Da Vinci Code makes unbridled use of. To see the famous “vulture,” you need to tilt your head 90 degrees to the left. You will then be able to make out, in the outline of Mary’s blue-green garment, the head and beak of a bird (on the left of the picture), its triangular body, and its two inert wings. In addition, the perfect composition of the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne is based in part on the use of an element described in The Da Vinci Code: the ratio of proportion “phi” (equal to 1.618), known to the Mesopotamians, the Roman architect Vitruvius, who called it the “golden number,” and the artists of antiquity. This “divine proportion,” although it is not the “fundamental building block in nature” as The Da Vinci Code proclaims, creates in the realm of the fine arts an unparalleled effect of balance and harmony.

Patty:  No matter how I tilted my head, I never saw a bird.

Michele: I also did not have any luck finding the bird.

From the Tour:  Noli Me Tangere

In The Da Vinci Code, Mary Magdalene is described as being the victim of a conspiracy hatched by the Church at the Council of Nicaea in 325. In an attempt to denigrate her, she was supposedly stripped of her status as Jesus’ wife and reduced to the role of repentant prostitute, taking with her in her fall the concept of the sacred feminine. Bronzino’s painting shows that The Da Vinci Code, in its way, tapped into the ambiguous feelings that Mary Magdalene had produced in a number of artists down the centuries. Here, the painter represents the moment when Jesus Christ reveals his Resurrection to Mary Magdalene. The body triumphant of Christ and the ample forms of Mary create an erotic charge typical of Mannerism. As this painting suggests, with its choreography worthy of a nuptial parade, the scandalous impact of The Da Vinci Code, whose plot is based on the idea of the secret union between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, might have had precedents in the imaginings of artists. Furthermore, theologians have demonstrated that Mary Magdalene, who is never named in the New Testament, is an amalgam of three different women: Mary of Bethany (sister of Lazarus), Mary of Magdala (Magdalene), and an anonymous sinner who appears three times in the Gospel of Saint Luke. Mary Magdalene has always been a figure shrouded in mystery, the subject of innumerable fantasies.

Patty:  This picture was the hardest to find.  Its name, Noli Me Tangere, is at the bottom of about 5 other descriptors.  I have to say that part of the fun of the tour was engaging in the hunt.  The picture is rather interesting…the facial descriptions are rather odd and you could read a lot into them.

 From the Tour:  The Death of the Virgin

This is the Caravaggio painting that Saunière tears from the wall at the beginning of The Da Vinci Code. The Louvre possesses three of his paintings: this one, the Portrait of Alof de Wignacourt, and The Fortune Teller. The Death of the Virgin appears to contain a visual element that The Da Vinci Code mentions in connection
with Leonardo’s Last Supper in Milan, namely a scotoma. This is an ophthalmological term for a blind spot in the visual field. When applied to images, a scotoma refers to a detail the meaning of which cannot be seen but which becomes obvious when you are able to decipher it. According to The Da Vinci Code, a scotoma in The Last Supper is the figure of Mary Magdalene, whom Leonardo had placed to the right of Jesus, although for more than five centuries historians have in fact seen here the image of Saint John. More seriously, a probable scotoma in The Death of the Virgin is the large red drape in the top right of the canvas. This red drape is the same color as the dress of the dead Virgin. The two left-hand strips of the drape fall vertically toward her feet and the untied cord echoes that of her bodice. Drawn out of the picture frame, it could symbolize the disembodied body of Mary rising toward her Son during the Assumption. The convent that commissioned this painting from Caravaggio did not approve of this iconographic tour de force and rejected the work. They adjudged it to be irreverent on the grounds that it was vulgar and neglected the Assumption.

Patty:  I was intrigued by this idea that the drape floating could symbolize the Assumption.  I don’t think I would see any symbolism in it.

From the Tour:  The Wedding Feast at Cana

This work by Veronese is the largest painting in the Louvre. Visitors sometimes confuse its subject with that of Leonardo’s Last Supper, painted on the wall of the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan and which The Da Vinci Code deciphers after a fashion. The two works represent the two most famous meals of the New Testament: a wedding banquet marked by Jesus’ first miracle, in which he changes water
into wine; and the last meal of Jesus and the Apostles. The Wedding Feast at Cana, which mixes the Gospel with Venetian high society of the 1560s, contains some surprising details. Why has the artist painted simplified motifs of wedding rings on the silvery tunic of the cupbearer on the right? Why was the head of the figure in black looking up near the middle of the right-hand table stuck to the canvas and not painted directly onto it? And why does the Virgin Mary, seated to the right of her son, seem to be holding an invisible glass in her right hand? Each of these questions could be answered in different ways, some true (the stuck on head is that of the successor of the person who was there before and who had just died) and others imaginary (Mary symbolically keeps the unattainable Holy Grail). There are as many possible avenues of interpretation as there are pictures. The author of The Da Vinci Code has chosen, as a novelist, to adopt imaginary interpretations in his descriptions of works of art.

Patty:  I was not drawn to this painting.  It truly is huge.  It looks like a very crowded party and is overly detailed.  However, the fun of the hunt and looking for the symbolic details made for great entertainment.

Michele:  For some reason I was fascinated by this painting.  It was bigger than life.  My first reaction was to think it was the Last Supper. I have never seen the Wedding Feast with so many people and so much action.  I stayed reflecting on it for a while.

 From the Tour:  Mona Lisa

The renown of the most famous painting in the world has no doubt increased since the publication of The Da Vinci Code and the release of the film adaptation. Every day, thousands of visitors come to the Louvre to see Mona Lisa (Monna Lisa) in the flesh and to try and penetrate her disturbing mystery. Ever since the work was painted in 1504 by Leonardo da Vinci, kings and artists, historians and tourists, poets and thieves have
projected their fantasies onto the supposed portrait of Madonna Elisabetta Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo. All sorts of things have, are, and will be said about her. Ever since she was stolen on August 21, 1911 (she was found again in 1913), this icon of Renaissance art has come to embody the very idea of a museum work intended for universal contemplation. Do people come only to appreciate the sfumato? The Da Vinci Code, by attributing to her anagrams, oddities of composition, and knowing smiles, merely restates in its own way all the myths attached to it. The Mona Lisa traveled three times during the last century: in 1911, as mentioned, in 1963 (New York and Washington D.C.), and in 1974 (Tokyo and Moscow). Now forever Parisian, protected behind glass from the air, from flash photography, and from attacks, she smiles to remind us that she was once alive.

Patty:  I was most disappointed by this painting.  Due to its popularity, you are struggling among crowds to get to the front.  I took my photo but the people are kept so far back, that it really is not much different from seeing it in a book.  You can’t notice brush work and you can’t stay for long to really enjoy the painting.

Michele: With all the people, it was very hard to get near it and thus appreciate it.  So, I was very disappointed too.

From the Tour:  The salles rouges (red rooms) and the Inverted Pyramid

The three rooms in the Louvre where the works of the great French painters between 1780 and 1840 (David, Ingres, Géricault, Delacroix) are displayed were created by Napoleon III. Their décor, with its red walls, forms a striking contrast with the paintings in their gilt frames. The setting created for these works results in a spectacular explosion of color. The opening of the movie The Da Vinci Code is set here, with the curator Saunière running through the rooms, mortally wounded. At the end of the room there is a staircase with a landing occupied by a café. This is the part of the museum that is nearest to the place where The Da Vinci Code ends: the Inverted Pyramid, whose glass belly can be seen through the windows, in the middle of the 
Rond-Point. The Inverted Pyramid is located in the Carrousel du Louvre, an underground shopping mall inaugurated in 1993 that adjoins the Hall Napoléon of the Louvre. At the end of The Da Vinci Code, Langdon understands that the pyramidion of stone placed under the point of the Inverted Pyramid houses the grave of Mary Magdalene. This entirely fictional revelation has nevertheless ensured that the little monument has entered local legend and tourist folklore. But 1.2 kilometers from the Inverted Pyramid, in the church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (the Madeleine), there is a reliquary containing the left thighbone of a woman aged around fifty, who died nearly twenty centuries ago. Of Mediterranean type, she was around 1 meter 58 centimeters tall . . .

Patty:  The red rooms are beautifully decorated.  I was attracted to the architecture and detail of the ceilings.  The red really does set off the paintings in an appealing way.  Michele and I had lunch in the café described here…by then we were ready to sit for a while.  We were never quite sure that we would find the inverted pyramid.  As we were walking over to the “Carrousel” to buy some tourist stuff, we walked right up to it.  So happily, we found everything on the tour.  It really was a fun way to explore the Louvre and I would recommend it or one of the other tours as a great way to enjoy this overwhelming museum.

Michele:  The red and decorations in these rooms really stood out.  I enjoyed walking through them.  Overall I enjoyed this “self-guide” tour led by Patty.  I had read and seen the DaVinci code and now could see up close the paintings that were referred too. I could also visualize what was filmed in the Museum.

Friday, September 2, 2016

When visiting different places

The Constitutional
When visiting different places, I like to share some of the unique things that you might not hear about through normal channels.  Today begins a weekend of celebration for the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine in the United States. That will be featured on the US Federation Facebook page and next week’s website article.
However, in 2015 the sisters participated in a unique community project to highlight the declaration of the City of St. Augustine as a compassionate city. It is one of 20 cities worldwide to claim the title of Compassionate City.  St. Augustine is both a historical city and one that highly values public works of art.  So it chose a unique project to showcase both. 

Mother House of the Sisters of St Joseph of Augustine

In developing this project, Compassionate St. Augustine, a group formed to focus on their role as a compassionate city, decided to highlight a historic monument in St. Augustine, the 30 foot obelisk, “Monument to the Constitution” on St. Augustine’s public square.  
Description of the Constitutional Obelisk

This monument was erected in 1813 to commemorate the first constitutional government in Spain.  St. Augustine was part of Spain at that time.  The obelisk, placed in the town plaza, was to represent the four foundational values of the Spanish Constitution: freedom, democracy, human rights, and compassion. In 1814 when the constitutional government in Spain was overthrown and the monarchy restored, the order to destroy the obelisks throughout the realm was given.  However, St. Augustine refused to comply.  Their obelisk is thought to be the only one unaltered one remaining.

Compassionate St. Augustine commissioned obelisks to be created and displayed around the city.  The goal of the art display was to visually symbolize the yearning for a legacy of compassion, healing, and hope for future generations as expressed by people both locally and globally.  In 2015, the Compassionate St Augustine Oblelisk Art project was unveiled.  One was to be placed in the garden at the Mother House.

Lace signifying
the origins in Le Puy
The Compassion Obelisk
Wendy Mandel McDaniel, the creator of the Sisters of St. Joseph obelisk offered this explanation of her work, “Because my obelisk will be displayed in the serene gardens of the Sisters of St Joseph Mother House, I have incorporated some of their story as well.  The Sisters came from Le Puy, France in 1866, to teach the children of recently freed African American slaves (see photo of their first class of students).  Since arriving in the U.S., their main mission has been one of education.  Thirty-six years ago, Sister Diane Couture began the Art of Dreams, dedicated to providing a nurturing environment where children can experience self-expression, self-awareness and self-discipline through arts and culture.  The Sisters also formed the SSJ Architectural Stained Glass Studio, where they teach stained glass techniques and create beautiful works of art.  I find their story and continuing work to be inspirational.  I strongly support their belief that the spirit of the arts, co-exist with the spirit of the soul.” 

Wendy’s obelisk also speaks to the other values suggested by the project, highlighting quotes from various religious and civil rights leaders, philosophers and artists.  She hopes to emphasize the oneness of humankind, our interconnections, empathy for the other, and the importance of being kind and forgiving.

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