Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Leading in the Footsteps of our Founders

By: Andrew Mercado

As the new academic year is in full swing, students across the country at colleges founded by Sisters of Saint Joseph will be exploring leadership through a newly developed webinar series “Leading in the Footsteps of our Founders.” Through generous funding by the C. Charles Jackson Foundation, The Association of Colleges of Sisters of St. Joseph (ACSSJ) has partnered with member campuses in bringing together opportunities for students to intentionally and actively explore leadership development in the spirit and charism of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. The webinar offerings for the fall semester include:
  • Who are we called to be? Journeying into the past and leading into the future
  • Student and Leader: A path towards excellence & service to the “Dear Neighbor”
  • Leading with Purpose & Striving a Balance: A conversation for all on the complexities and necessity of women’s leadership in today’s world 
  • Live your Why.

Since the very founding of our institutions, love for the “dear neighbor” has been and continues to be a central hallmark that shapes the student experience while on campus and influences who they become. In an increasingly interconnected world, this webinar series seeks to empower students to live as engaged leaders called to create hospitable and caring communities, manifest concern for all without distinction, address the needs of the times, strive for excellence in all endeavors, work to make a difference in the local and world community. The webinar series presents a unique opportunity for students across the country to explore the historical and contemporary footsteps of the Sisters of Saint Joseph as a model of leadership in service to the “dear neighbor.”

The webinars are open to the public, please join us. For registration information, please go to or email

[Andrew Mercado is an ACSSJ Graduate Intern and 2016 graduate from Elms College majoring in Health Care Management and Sociology. While at Elms, he was actively involved in Campus Ministry programs and took part in multiple mission trips. He recently graduated from Boston College with a Masters in Higher Education focusing on spirituality, faith, and formation. Andrew is also currently in the process of becoming an associate with the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Springfield.  He is also the Vocations Coordinator at The Augustinians of the Assumption.]

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Outrage in New York at Family Separation

By: Sister Susan Wilcox

Shortly after the family separation policy was announced, I found myself looking for engaged neighbors at our local activist fair hosted at a Methodist Church. One of the tables had the sign “Don’t Separate Families”. I knew I wanted to connect with this group. The flyer said they would be meeting on Sunday afternoon at a local synagogue. It turns out that this came about because two alumni parents of a friend's school could not stand by without doing something about children being taken from their parents.  On that first Sunday afternoon, the room was filled with other outraged neighbors. We organized into working groups and came up with several first actions, a New Sanctuary Coalition Accompaniment Training, organizing for the June 30 Keeping Families Together March, and raising donations for organizations working with immigrants and asylum seekers. Some of our members were also deeply interested in actually going to the border; to do what, they did not know.
A map of the caravans' travels in the United States.

We continued meeting, connecting with other groups like the New York Immigration Coalition and others.Then we heard of a grassroots effort coming out of Beacon, New York called Grannies Respond/Abuelos Responden. The idea is that a caravan would head out from Beacon, stop in NYC for a rally and then continue on, making stops along the way. The final destination would be McAllen, Texas – home of the Ursula Detention Center, the largest immigrant processing center in the United States.  Two from our local group decided to participate while the rest of us worked on the NY Rally, creating interest and publicity.  The idea took off as a group from Utah and Los Angeles formed to make their way to McAllen, all converging at once. The NY caravan made stops in Reading, PA; Pittsburg, PA; Louisville, KY; Montgomery, AL; New Orleans, LA; Dilley, TX; and Houston, TX before seeing McAllen. All along the way they had rallies, vigils, and demonstrations, picking up cars and vans of more "grannies" (and "grampies").
At our most recent weekly meeting of Don’t Separate Families on Aug. 20, we hosted a reunion of the NY contingency and reached out to the public to attend (in person or via live stream) to hear their witness stories of desperation, hope, and resilience. What's next? We hope to continue to collaborate with Grannies Respond on their next project, the Overground Railroad, a network of grassroots services serving those seeking asylum.
Editor's note: You can sign up for more information about Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responded and/or the Overground Railroad here.
[Sister Susan Wilcox is a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood, NY]

Friday, August 10, 2018

Continuing to Refine the Process of Contemplative Dialogue at LCWR

Sr. Liz Sweeney, SSJ
This year Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) expanded on a process of contemplative dialogue that they have been using for several years.  Led by Sr. Liz Sweeney, SSJ, (Philadelphia) the participants began each of three presentations in a contemplative mode.  

The presenters Sr. Gloria Schaab, SSJ (Philadelphia) began with her presentation entitled, “In the Image of the Trinity: To Be is To Be in Relation.” Click here to read her address.  The new twist was that the other keynote speakers, Heidi Russell and Simon Pedro Arnold, OSB, responded to what they heard.  They were followed by a panel of LCWR members who also responded and then engaged in dialogue about what the presentation might mean to
Sr. Gloria Schaab
them as leaders.  This powerful new dynamic seemed to really help the process go deeper.

After a short break, LCWR participants went to contemplative dialogue groups as has been done in the last few LCWR Assemblies.  In these groups, gatherings of six engaged in contemplative silence and then followed a contemplative dialogue process to hear what was emerging.  There were four to six groups of six in each room.  After two listening processes, the groups of six shared what was emerging with the other groups in the room.  In my group there was a powerful convergence of energy as each group shared their reflections. 

Sr. Judy Donovan

 In each room was a listener who led the process.  When the whole body reconvened 4 listeners shared what they heard emerging so that the body began to get a sense of the communal dialogue of the whole.  Three Sisters of St Joseph, Srs. Judy Donovan, Joan Gallagher, and Janet Lander served as listeners.
Sr. Janet Lander

Sr. Joan Gallagher
LCWR committed to a several year process to use communal dialogue as a mode of hearing God’s voice in their seeking direction for the Conference.  Each year it does seem that the process has allowed them to go deeper into understanding their movement together.
Heidi Russell

Click here to hear Heidi Russell’s presentation.
Sr. Teresa Maya, LCWR President

Sr. Jayne Helmlinger

A highlight of every LCWR is the Presidential Address.  Click here to read this year’s address.

We congratulate Sr. Jayne Helmlinger (Orange) who is the new President Elect of LCWR

Monday, August 6, 2018

Closing Ritual for the Orientation for the 2018-2019 Novices

The novices, their novice directors and Federation representatives
 gather in the chapel for the closing of the orientation

Here is a portion of the closing ritual for the orientation of the novices.

We are each descendants of weavers, the lace makers of France, each of us women who from the core of our very beings bring to life our mission and charism. We are women called to dream a future that all may be one. We are women of unioining love…of relationship…of unity…reconciliation…hospitality of heart…we are sister to, with, and for each other and the world…

This night we light three candles…first the candle of the past. We remember the dreams of Fr. Medaille and the first six sisters, Mother Saint John Fontbonne, the founders of each of our congregations, and all of those other courageous women who have gone before us. May we honor those women of the past on whose shoulders we stand – those women who have made a difference in our lives and in the life of the world…those women who inspire us to be faithful and dedicated Sisters of Saint Joseph…

Sr. Michelle Lesher lights the
three candles
We light a candle for the present. This is where we are together…our passion…our energy…our love of God and the Dear neighbor are gathered into this time and space weaving a network of relationships reflecting who we are called to be: women of unioning love….We honor those women who at this time in history are living their lives that all may be one. We pray for each other and for all those women from our home congregations who send us here to this experience wrapped in life and love. We know that we are better because we walk this journey together…

We light a candle for the future…because we have touched the past and the present and we know that there is a creative energy moving us on – toward the more…we pray for each of us as we continue on this journey – open to the promptings of God discerning how we might be called to live this mission and charism into the future…we pray for sisters of St. Joseph throughout the world, in particular those in formation, and we pray for any women who might be considering life as a Sister of St. Joseph…among us may they find a place where they can live the love they are called to live…

Sr. Chrstine presents Sr. Jennifer
with her candle

And we light a candle for each one of you this night…as you continue on in this call to tend the flame of our mission and charism and to share it with our world so desperately longing for deeper relationships with God, self, and others…(Home directors give the candles to the novices)
Sr. Jane presents Sr. Tram with her candle

May we be the light…
Srs. Chizuru, Sarah, and Sally pray with their candles

Graces on the cloth – This community of faith has gathered here this week and now we have hopes 
Srs. Sally and Tram write their graces on the cloth
Srs. Joann and Michelle share the sign of peace
 and dreams for this Novitiate time, for our growth, for our call to new and deeper life…and we will need grace in order to do this well…and so we pause to consider the graces we’d like to ask for From our loving God – graces for ourselves – for those we accompany near and far – take a few moments to consider the grace you most want to pray for this community  - speak the grace aloud and then write it on the cloth…

Calling upon these graces, we offer a blessing for a new beginning… and share a sign of peace.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Circle the City with Love- Its a Movement

On the night of the feast of St Joseph, March 19, 2016 a few friends were sitting around chatting, commiserating about the state of our country… all the terrible stuff going on with the nominees for the presidential elections. The words Circle the City with Love just came out of my mouth.  This is the title of a Song composed, recorded and sold since early 2000’s by Kathy Sherman CSJ who resides in Chicago. 

Why don’t we Circle the City during the RNC and gather in some fashion/somewhere putting positive energy into the memory fields, the morphogenic fields as they are called by scientists.  Morphogenic fields is a spiritual concept that has been proven through science

This action would call for an extended period of standing/sitting in silence, breathing love, compassion, peace into the energy fields    Each participant one by one and the collective energy of the many would make it a very powerful experience.   We would make a difference!

As we stood 3000 strong for one half  in silence  on the Lorain/Carnegie Bridge in Cleveland Ohio on July 16, 2018  we knew were making a difference!   This was the beginning of a movement!

Please join the Movement this year on July 29, 2018 by going to 

Rita Petruziello CSJ
Cleveland, Ohio

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Border Experience

Three Federation novices and four Sisters of St. Joseph embark on a life-changing journey

FROM LEFT: Sisters Kristine Fernandez, Judy Stephens, Jean McKinney, Mary Alice Collar,
Betty Suther, Ann Ashwood and Christina Brodie drove from Concordia, Kansas to El Paso, Texas
to learn about life, ministries, and charities along the border.

This April, four Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and three Federation novices left Concordia to go to El Paso, Texas, to visit our house at Grandview and experience the border and immigration issues first hand. We asked them to tell us how that trip impacted their views. You can find the novices’ stories on this page.

The Border Experience is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia as a part of their commitment to Gospel living and nonviolence, which includes standing in solidarity with undocumented immigrants.

Participants stayed at the Sisters’ Grandview Convent in El Paso, Texas. Sisters Missy Ljungdahl and Donna Otter live there and help organize the experience while in El Paso. Sisters Christina Brodie, Judy Stephens, Ann Ashwood and Betty Suther staffed the experience. 

The trip offers a wide variety of experiences, depending on each visit. On this current expedition, participants spent time with Father Peter Hindes, 95, a Carmelite, and Sister Betty Campbell RSM in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Both have ministered extensively south of the border and were able to share their insights on immigration, poverty and injustice in the area.

The novices and Sisters also were able to speak with Sister Rita, a Sister of the Holy Spirit in San Antonio, who taught them about the Catalina Sewing Cooperative in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. The co-op has been around for 29 years and helps the local women have a ‘micro business’ to support their kids.

Catalina also has a school to help the children with homework and has received 20 computers to help the children with computer skills.

The program has evolved over many years and is ministered through some Dominican and Adrian Dominicans, Franciscan Sisters among many others.

This is a wonderful ministry which helps the women become independent in taking care of their families.
Other stops included both religion-based and secular organizations that provide relief, legal advice, housing and other services on the border.

The Sisters of St. Joseph have been offering some sort of Border Experience since 1996.

Novices' Experience

Jean McKinney (Boston)

Federation novice Jean McKinney (Boston):

For my reflection on our border experience I will reflect on EL PASO.

EASTER: What an appropriate day to start! Throughout the trip there were many Easter moments.
LAND:  The Land where you stand makes a difference in how you live your life: long lines every day! You must face the unknown to go to work or visit family or friends. These simple tasks could take minutes or hours depending on what is happening at the border crossing into the USA.
POVERTY: Poverty exists on both sides of the border; in Colonias, people live on land where they have no utilities and no access to water. But as poor as they are, the people there have PRIDE in their homes.  And in the little space they have, they have carved out space for PRAYER to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
ABUNDANCE:  What amazed me was the abundance of love all around, shown by all who serve and all being served! Although I could not understand what was being said, I could feel the love.
SADNESS: Seeing all the suffering that people must live with every day, and recognizing the  sinfulness of the United States in sealing the borders — this sadness has moved me deeply! I will, however, SAVOR every moment spent at the border.
OPENNESS: The beauty of the open country now offers a very different perspective:A somber image of migrants on foot, walking hopefully, desperately — trying to reach the safety of the United States.

Federation novice Kristine Fernandez (Toronto): 
Kristine Fernandez (Toronto)

El Paso was an emotional roller coaster. I went from heartbreak to hope and joy all on the same day. It was heartbreaking to see and learn about how we treat migrant workers, refugees, people detained at the border. Amidst all this heartbreak we also encountered beacons of hope.  People who are working tirelessly and for no economic gain to stand up for and stand up with those who are being ill-treated.

Why is an abused woman who arrives at the U.S. border asking for asylum transported like a criminal in handcuffs and leg shackles to a federal  jail?

Why does a migrant worker get paid only 70 cents to fill a big tub of chili peppers?

Why does my heart break when I think of these people?
Mary Alice Collar (St. Louis)

Why does your heart not break when you hear about these people?

Federation novice Mary Alice Collar (St. Louis):

I am grateful and humbled for the opportunity to go to El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, to witness the tragedies happening at the border as well as meet so many dedicated people ministering to the many needs of the migrants/refugees fleeing horrific violence.

Each day I was filled with a multitude of emotions from deep sadness, anger, frustration, hopelessness to hopefulness.

I would look into the eyes of frightened 4 and 5 year olds taken from their parents to a strange place (detention center.) Then I saw many volunteers at RICO ministries trying to infuse as much love as humanly possible into the children’s eyes.

I am proud of the southern border Bishops’ statement .

[This story originally appeared in The Messenger, a publication of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia]

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

International News via Our Rochester Sisters

SSJ Brazil Associates Forming
The spirit and mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Rochester is growing in Brazil. The first SSJ Associate commitment ceremony is expected to take place on Sunday, April 29 at Jesus of Nazareth in Jardim Curitiba, Goiania. Leadership Team members Sisters Marilyn Pray and Mary Ann Mayer will attend the ceremony as they will be in Brazil for their annual visit.  

Over the past year, Sisters Jean Bellini, Joana Dalva Alves Mendes, Maria José Monteiro de Oliveira and Maureen Finn have met regularly with a group of 18 lay men and women for prayer and
Our Potential Associates in Goiania
sharing of the SSJ spirit, spirituality and mission. The men and women have also spent time with the other Sisters missioned in Brazil. Most recently, the group took part in a day-long retreat to reflect on discerning their call to becoming Associates. The gathering was held in February on the Tuesday of Carnival, a national holiday in Brazil, and included a festive celebration.

It is not yet known how many of the 18 will decide to officially make the two-year commitment as an Associate. The Sisters in Brazil ask that you please keep these men and women in your prayers.

A Visit to Peru

From February 19-21, Sister Joana Dalva Alves Mendes had the opportunity to represent the Congregation (our Sisters from the Brazilian region) at the meeting of the leaders of SSJs who serve in Latin America and the Caribbean. The meeting took place in Chincha, Peru and 15 sisters from 12 different congregations were present. As a result of their reflection they came up with the following possibilities or proposals:
  • To have common space/opportunity for initial and on-going formation: common novitiate, final vow preparation, sabbatical time (20-30 years of vows)
  • Intercongregational initiatives: common mission in places at the margins (in situations or places where others are not serving) for short or prolonged times
  • To open ourselves to the possibility of integrating with lay people who share our charism so that they can be protagonists also in our quest to incarnate the Gospel in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • To improve communication among ourselves making use of the means of communication available
  • To hold periodic meetings (every two years) with the leaders of the congregations present in Latin America
Aside from the meeting proposals, Sister Joana also wanted to share some of the personal reaction she had to the trip.

Reflection by Sister Joana Dalva Alves Mendes
My first opportunity to go to Chincha, Peru was in 2007 when the city, along with its surrounding areas, was devastated by an earthquake. I offered to help there, but discovered that my passport had expired. It was then that Sister Anne Marvin and our dear Suzana (Sister Sue Wills) went to Chincha and spent a year with the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Pembroke.
Now, 11 years later, I had the opportunity to go there with another goal, but with the possibility of being in the place where Anne and Suzana lived such remarkable experiences. The opportunity for socializing and sharing experiences with Sisters of Saint Joseph from six countries was remarkable, but above all, I was moved by what remained of the marks of reality, still very precarious. Certainly Anne would have been better able to notice what improved, having been there in the time of chaos. But the appearance that remains, for someone, like me, who had the first contact more than a decade after the earthquake, is that very little has been done and there is much to rebuild.