Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Maxim 85

During a recent trip to Wichita, Kansas, I was reminded of maxim 85, “Advance good works until they are almost finished; and then, whenever possible, let them be completed by someone else who will receive the honor.” 

To meet the unmet health care needs of the uninsured and under-insured in Wichita, four years ago the Mother Mary Anne Health Clinic, named after a long time St. Joseph Hospital administrator and leaders of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita, opened to provide after-hours patient care on a walk-in basis at an affordable rate, often free.  After providing over 20,000 patient visits, the Sisters and the staff realized that the needs of their “dear neighbor” had changed. 
Mother Mary Ann Health Clinic

Translator Virdiana Villalobos and a nurse prepare for patients

Patients who had their urgent health care need attended to, but found that they were unable to locate ongoing medical care that they could afford, began returning to the Mother Mary Anne Clinic.   The Clinic staff knew that although they could provide the care, it would be urgent care.  It would not be the kind of care that a patient gets when they have a primary doctor who knows them and a medical home that emphasizes prevention and follow-up treatment of chronic conditions.

Out of this need for increased access to ongoing care for the poor, a new and strong relationship was formed with the GraceMed Health Clinic, a federally qualified health center (FQHC).  GraceMed currently provides medical home services, however not in a location that is convenient for the Hilltop neighborhood, a poor section of Wichita that the Mother Mary Anne Health Clinic serves. The plan is for GraceMed  to take over the Mother Mary Anne Clinic.  It will be able to use the current building to provide regular medical home services, including dental care, a service that the poor have great difficulty accessing, as well as the after-hours walk-in clinic dedicated to serving patients who are uninsured and underinsured.  This will all be accomplished in a newly remodeled 4,100 square-foot space with nine exam rooms. 

For those of you that may not have had experience with FQHCs, let me give my personal testimonial to the quality of care they provide.  When I was the Assistant Administrator for Medicaid in Hawaii, the position I held immediately prior to becoming the Federation Executive Director, I received my care at one of these centers.  I felt it was important to experience what my clients were experiencing.  FQHCs are required to meet strict federal guidelines, including time frames for granting an appointment.  I always got wonderful care when I needed it.  Regular recommendations and reminders for preventative care, getting needed blood tests, and guidance on how to obtain the lowest cost, yet effective medications were always offered.   From my first-hand experience of having a medical home and from the experience of my neighbors and clients in Hawaii, I fully appreciate the wonderful expansion of service that this new relationship of the Via Christi Mother Mary Anne Health Center and GraceMed offers to one of the most impoverished areas in Wichita.

This good work was advanced by our sisters but will be continued on by these new colleagues, with a little help from the Sister’s Foundation.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Patty and Griselda Take Manhattan

The Muppets have nothing on Sr. Griselda Martinez Morales and me.  While I was in New York working on business for the Sisters of St. Joseph Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations with Griselda, our representative there, we also did a few Christmas tourist things in Manhattan.

We visited the Christmas store windows, saw the tree at Rockefeller Plaza and visited Grand Central Station.
The windows at Macy's were the best I have ever seen

Sr. Griselda at Rockefeller Plaza

The skaters at Rockefeller Plaza

Me at Times Square
I am getting better at crossing the streets in Manhattan.  Although they have walk and don’t walk signs all over, in New York that doesn’t really mean that you should or should not cross.  Ideally, you cross with a pack of people when it is safe but mostly you just cross when there is not a car or bicycle coming right at you.  This usually has nothing to do with the traffic signals.  After following Griselda around, I had to go to a meeting on my own several blocks from her office.  I was so very proud as I scouted the scene and took my life in my hands as I crossed the street on my own.
Griselda is quite involved at St. Patrick’s parish which is a predominantly Latin American parish.  I participated with her in a rosary at a parishioner’s home.  For 45 days, leading up to the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the parishioners have been hosting a rosary for the parish in their home.  The one I went to had about 50 people and included a procession by the children, a song with every decade of the rosary and food afterwards.  It is quite a commitment and community building process on the part of the parishioners.
I met with our Sisters at the UN, Griselda, Marianne Sennick and Susan Wilcox to do some future planning also.    We put the finishing touches on a newsletter about our work at the UN which will be sent off for translation and available on the Federation website soon.
Susan, Marianne and Griselda, Sisters of St Joseph at the UN

Griseda at Grand Central Station

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Making a Difference with the Dear Neighbor in Hartford

In Hartford Connecticut, the Sisters of St. Joseph are tackling the problems facing some of their most vulnerable neighbors.  What impressed me the most is their commitment to a wholistic approach to social issues.  They sponsor and staff many impressive programs to meet the needs of the poor; they educate a large segment of people about the issues facing the vulnerable; engage neighbors as volunteers and advocates; and they address the systemic causes of injustice.

Srs. Theresa Fonti and Maureen Faenza are the co-directors at House of Bread
I went to visit several programs that the sisters own and/or operate.  I started at the House of Bread. For over 30 years, the Sisters have operated a soup kitchen, known for its delicious food and warm hospitality.  Through their conversations with the neighbors who came to the kitchen, the Sisters and their Board of Directors expanded the program.  Today it provides transitional and low income housing, a day shelter, a program to provide children with a warm dinner, and a thrift store.  They have education programs to help mothers gain a General Equivalency Diploma and job training in food service.  The program could not operate without all the volunteers who do everything from managing the thrift store, to serving the meals and mentoring the clients.  Many of their clients volunteer to assist the program even while they are receiving services.  Their secret to success is the relationships they form and the encouragement they provide to their clients. 
During a break at GED classes a mom comes to visit with her child and the House of Bread staff

As we drove up to the soup kitchen, the clients waved wildly and called to Sr. Theresa as she drove up.  She had personal comments to make to almost everyone we passed on the way in. 

The Soup Kitchen relies heavily on volunteers

Next I was off to Jubilee House, a community adult education center and gathering place operated as a ministry of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambery in Hartford.  Jubilee House’s mission is to be a place where people of varied background and experience gather to teach, learn, and share in surroundings conducive to human and spiritual growth. My tour sure gave evidence to this in action.  The program offers assistance to people from over 24 countries. The success of this program is that it provides one-to-one or one-to-two ratios between the mentors and the adult learners.  Most other ESOL classes in Hartford are offered in big classes where people often get frustrated and leave when they cannot master the material.  As I wandered through the large building there were students and tutors busily practicing English everywhere.  Even during the break-time, students and tutors stay together and chat in English as they enjoy a cup of coffee, tea and snack together.  I got a chance to talk with one of the tutors during the break who started out coming one morning a week and now comes four times a week because she feels the program is so effective and necessary.
A volunteer tutor and her student

The individualized attention makes all the difference for these adult learners

Jubilee House also has a very responsive program for refugees who have completed the post-refugee resettlement program offered by the Government or Catholic Charities.  Hartford has a large refugee population from Bosnia, Liberia, Somalia, Burma, Burundi, Iraq, and Buhtan.    Essentially, this means they are serving the people once there really is no government funding or other charity programs to assist them.  They are the only post-resettlement  program in their area. The need for services is great because most of these refugees come from vastly different lifestyles, have experience trauma, and do not speak English.  However, I am told that when the clients experience success in jobs, legal status or other major landmarks, the effusiveness of their joy is extreme.
The third major program at Jubilee House is the Esperana Academic Center, which provides writing, math, computer literacy, and world of work instruction to adults who have a high school diploma or GED and who wish to pursue higher education or build life/work skills.
As if these programs weren’t impressive enough, then I was off to visit Tabor House.  Founded in 1990 by the Sisters of St. Joseph, Tabor House consists of two Victorian homes in Hartford that provide a safe, loving home for formerly homeless people with AIDS and HIV.   
Tabor House

Sister Ann Kane, CSJ, is the executive director of the Tabor House residences. In addition to Sister Ann, there is a case manager and substance abuse counselor who works with residents on their recovery efforts through various self-help groups, helps them maintain their health as they keep appointments at local clinics for medical care and medication, scouts out job possibilities, and, when a resident is ready, helps them transition into permanent independent living situations.

I had the opportunity to talk with a few of the residents.  Having run residential programs in my past, I was quite impressed as the residents talked about the program as their home and the importance of the staff in their lives.

The last program that I learned about was the Collaborative Center for Justice.  Co-located at Jubilee House, this program impacts public policy by addressing the root causes of poverty and injustice.  It builds partnerships with others who are committed to shaping just policies and participates in initiatives that address issues of health care, environmental justice, homelessness and housing, death penalty, budget and taxes, and issues that impact women, children and families.

 A network of well-prepared volunteers contact legislators on important issues.  An innovative initiative of the group is that they assign prayer partners to Legislators who pray for their guidance as they deliberate the laws that will govern society.  Sr. Linda Pepe, CSJ, a registered lobbyist prepares the educational materials for the volunteers, provides advocacy and training programs, and engages in efforts to persuade legislators to pass laws that address the common good.  Sr. Linda reminded me that the Sisters of St. Joseph have run a soup kitchen for 31 years.  “We need to ask the question, why do we still have these,” she said.  Her efforts supported by her sisters address these systemic issues that keep people in poverty. 
Linda also talked about the success that the Collaborative Center for Justice had in a recent immigration situation.  After an immigration raid by the Federal government in which the Hartford police participated, the Brazilian immigrant community into a panic.  People were afraid to leave their house and would not call the police when there was danger.  The network of advocates worked with the City of Hartford to pass an ordinance that clarified the rights of documented and undocumented people in Hartford and the role that police did and did not play in immigration issues.  This landmark legislation has served as a model for other communities.

My time in Hartford was quite an experience.  It was impressive to see the impact they are having in their community with their dear neighbor as partners in healing the neighborhood.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Joseph in Stained Glass

While visiting in Philadelphia at the Sisters of St. Joseph motherhouse I was very interested to find that almost all the stained glass windows in the chapel include pictures of St. Joseph.  I thought you might enjoy seeing them.
The Espousal of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph

The Visitation
The Dream of Joseph
The Birth of Christ
The Adoration of the Magi
The Presentation of the Temple
The Flight into Egypt
The Rest in the Desert
The Finding of the Child Jesus
The Hidden Life at Nazareth
The Death of St. Joseph
St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Unique Business Plan that Provides for the Neighbor

Last night in Connecticut I had dinner at the Flatbread Company and was very impressed by their business plan.  The owner, Eric Kronschnevil, decided that he would not spend money on advertising.  Instead he opens his business to a community non-profit agency every Tuesday for fund-raising and relies on the good will that this generates.  The amount of money that he would normally spend per week is essentially donated to the organization on a per pizza basis.  This week the fund raiser benefitted Jubilee House, a program operated by the West Hartford Sisters of St. Joseph. The restaurant was filled all evening as friends of Jubilee House, sisters and regular customers enjoyed great food.
Friends of Jubilee House enjoy a great evening

 Previously, the fund raiser has benefitted Tabor House, another program operated by the Sisters benefitting people with AIDS.  (My next blog will tell you more about Jubilee House, Tabor House and a few of the other wonderful works in which the Sisters here are involved.)
Sr. Susan Cunningham, Executive Director of Jubilee House chats with Eric and Sr. Ann Kane, Tabor House Director

While we were enjoying our organic, wood-fire cooked vegetarian pizza, Eric came over to our table and chatted a little about his unique advertising plan, his values, family and the other ways he helps non-profits.  It was obvious that he chooses the agencies that he supports with care and values what each agency does.  He tries to find ways that he can support their other fund raisers and their operations. 

When I commented how much I liked his business plan, Eric responded, “I get to share about $30,000 a year with my neighbors.”  What a Sister of St. Joseph answer!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Founder's Day 2011 in St. Louis

This 175th Founder’s Day was celebrated in St. Louis by the Sisters of St. Joseph by opening their house to over 700 of the dear neighbors. There were tours, talks, refreshments and wonderful opportunities for catching up with friends, old and new.
 Donna as Mother St. John Fontbonne

The highlight for many was hearing Sr. Donna Gunn speak as Mother St. John Fontbonne, one of the significant sisters in our history.  In character Donna spoke about sending her sisters to St. Louis, the hardships they met, and the incredible work they did.  She emphasized the contributions of lay people to the mission of the Sisters from the earliest contributions of Countess de la Rochejaq’uelein who provided the funding for the first mission in the US to the support that the sisters receive today.  She said, “We are all the people of God, all one, all serving together in partnership.”
 Rita  and Barbara in the Chapel

At this historic event, Sr. Barbara Moore commented that “This is the fountainhead.  From here came the richness, our services, and our care for others.  From this rootedness, our branches have sprung.  Sr. Rita Flaherty noted that, “This one heart beat here flows into the various heartbeats of the Sisters of St. Joseph throughout the world.” 

Sr. Audrey Olson shared that “This celebration shows the spirit working.  We have evolved and continue evolving. As my good friend Sr. Judy Miller is fond of saying, we are increasing; we have almost as many associates as vowed members.  We are evolving to something totally new in the church, a new spurt to our evolution.”
Pat, Kathy and Rosemary

 “This fills me with hope.  There is such a response and interest in our CSJ history and our connections.  We are such down to earth people.  You can’t be in the chapel without feeling the presence of the spirit of our sisters,” shared Pat Sheridan, a CSJ Associate.  Sr. Kathy Eiler noted that she heard several comments with people thanking the sisters for remaining in the city and serving the Carondelet neighborhood.  Sr. Rosemary Brueggen delighted in sharing our history with our neighbors.

A sister from the Congregation of Saint Joseph, Peggy Wessel was happy that we brought in the dear neighbor to celebrate with us.  She was especially impressed by the emphasis on our partnership with the laity to accomplish the mission.  Peggy said, “I am proud to be part of the roots of this Congregation.”
 Pat and Ann Gerard

I learned a few things about Carondelet that I had not known before.  Srs. Pat Dunphy and Ann Gerard Siebert were telling our guests about the beautiful wood patterns in the floor.  The floors at Carondelet in what was the St. Joseph Academy wing were put in in 1905 by the Gillick Brothers.  They are a combination of maple and black walnut.  I always assumed the woods were chosen for decorative reasons.  It turns out that the choice of alternating woods was to allow for the expansion of the wood in summer with the heat and the contraction with the cold in winter.  A carpenter touring the chapel told Sr. Suzanne Giblin that he thought the boards were most likely hand cut.
Sarah at the trap door

Sr. Sarah Heger showed our guests the trap door that was discovered during renovations.  It is thought that this could be a stop on the underground railroad during the civil war.  Carondelet is high on a hill.  Looking out from the roof the sisters could notice troop movement and see runaway slaves.  It seems likely that the sisters may have brought the runaways in and hid them in the space under the trap door and then when the coast was clear, helped them leave through the trap door and escape to waiting boats down on the river.

Some people came to Carondelet today bringing pictures of their relatives who were sisters, class pictures where they were taught by CSJs, or buildings where we worked.  Five women drove from Georgian to tour the Motherhouse.  The relatives of the artist who carved the reliquary in the chapel came to see his work.
Yolanda shares about her good friend, Sr. Leo Ann

Yolanda Downey who had been a neighbor with Sr. Leo Ann Bub and Sr. Charles stopped by.  Even after Sr. Leo Ann moved to Nazareth, our retirement center, Yolanda has kept touch with her going out to Nazareth for mass and lunch on a weekly basis.   She says that the sisters were like blood sisters to her.  Now she feels like she has 300 sisters.
Ida in the Celestine Room

I caught up with Ida Robertine Berresheim  in the Celestine Room.  She noted that she thought people enjoyed seeing Carondelet as a living place of such beauty on such a beautiful day.  Carondelet is such a piece of history, a high value, mysterious icon.

In summing up the day, Sr. Sharon Jones said that she “met some delightful people, some people she had not seen for years, and that she enjoyed welcoming people.“
To read more about this celebration go to:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An Interesting Sister in West Virginia

Sister Rosalie Bucci
When I went to Wheeling, West Virginia, my purpose was to work with the Treasurer on learning the Federation book-keeping system.  However, one of the more interesting side-happenings of the trip was my interaction with Sr. Rosalie Bucci.
After sharing supper with Rosalie, I became rather curious about a comment she made, so I asked if I could speak with her again the next morning.  I asked her about her life and she told me the story of how she met the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Rosalie’s parents were Italian immigrants who settled in Williamson, West Virginia.  Williamson was rural but during the time of World War II, it was buzzing with rail traffic.  N&W railroad was there with 17 passenger trains coming through regularly.  Rosalie’s father and brothers worked on the railroad.  She loved her life in Williamson, having good friends and a close family life.
Rosalie first met the Sisters of St. Joseph when they came to teach bible school and religious education on some weekends and every summer.  Several hundred sisters did this throughout the year, leaving Wheeling by train to spend time throughout rural West Virginia. Sr. Rosalie said, “I loved what they were doing, how they spoke to us, and what it was like being with them. They were wonderful people.”  She noted that they taught them Gregorian chant, church doctrine and just talked with them about their lives.  Sr. Rosalie said, “They inspired me by their demeanor and everything about them.”  When the sisters came to Williamson, the priest vacated the rectory so they would have a place to stay.  The faith community in Williamson greatly appreciated the presence of the sisters.
Sr. Rosalie joined the Sisters of St. Joseph after graduating from high school in 1947.  She has a great appreciation for music so while teaching 1st grade for 40 years she also lead choirs and worked in music in the schools and parishes where she served.
I was very struck by the meaningful service that these traveling sisters provided after they completed their full time work.  I shared with Rosalie that many of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Vice Province of Hawaii, also met the Sister of St. Joseph when they traveled to the rural plantations to provide religious education to the children on evenings and weekends.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Le Puy Part II

I was especially fascinated by the legend of the miracles at the site that caused the Cathedral to be built.  Wikipedia told the story in such a concise yet interesting way that I decided to use their words. 

In 47 or 70 A.D., a woman from Ruessium named Vila who was suffering from a high fever asked to be carried to the top of Mount Anicius. She was laid on a megalithic dolmen that crowned the hill which had the reputation of healing fevers. This dolmen was in fact called "the stone of fevers." Vila fell asleep there, and the Virgin appeared to her in a dream. She asked Vila to go to see the local bishop named George, and ask him to build a church on that spot. The sign the lady would give him would be Vila's cure. When she awoke, Vila felt cured. She went to see Bishop George, who received her well. The prelate hiked to the summit of Mount Anicius with the rest of his clergy. The exact spot where the Virgin had appeared was snow-covered, in the middle of July: there was the outline of the foundations of the future edifice in the snowfall around the dolmen made by a deer. The bishop had a wooden fence erected around the place that would become one day the altar site of the Cathedral of Le Puy en Velay.

More than a century after this miraculous occurrence, in 221, the Blessed Virgin accompanied by angels appeared to a paralyzed woman from the village of Ceyssac, and also told her to go to Mount Anicius to be cured. When the woman reached the fence, she was instantly cured. The Virgin appeared to her to ask for a proper church to be built on that holy ground. Bishop Vosy, the then bishop of the diocese, climbed the hill himself, and then went to Rome to meet Pope Callistus I (C. 155-222). The holy pontiff gave permission for the construction of a basilica. Provided by Wikipedia

(See pictures of Cathedral and dolmen stone.)

 Another thing that fascinated me about the Cathedral was that it is the site of many pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Northwestern Spain.  The pilgrimages peaked in the 12th century but continued on into the 18th century.  In the last 30 years it has again grown in popularity.  The pilgrimage starts in Le Puy and goes to the site of the burial of St. James the Apostle.  It is hard to imagine that the bones are really his- but the pilgrimages have meaning for many people. 

 The Cathedral holds a mass at 7am every morning to bless the pilgrims and send them on their way.  Often the Bishop meets with the pilgrims personally.  All are given a specially minted coin that is symbolic of the beginning of their journey.  They leave through a special “hole” in the floor.  The Cathedral is built on a hill and as they expanded it over time, they built outward with pylons to support the church floor.  So there are these big hollow areas under the Cathedral.  There is a grate in the floor of the Cathedral which is raised so that the pilgrims can descend down these stairs and out of the Cathedral.  It is really unique. (See pilgrim's exit)

A place where our sisters surely came was to the L’hopitial, where poor pilgrims would stay on their way to Campestelo.  Next to it is the Chapel of St. Clair.  Interestingly, this was not always a Catholic spot.  Carved above the doorway are symbols showing the phases of the moon.  This was considered the “Temple of Diana” in pre-Christian times.  The Chapel of Saint Michael, atop the mountain was a Druid place of worship also prior to Christian times. (See pcitures of Chapel below)

In the center of the market place a tree and a monument mark the site where many were guilotined during the French Revolution, including two Sisters of St. Joseph. (See picture of tree)
Across the street from that is the building where Bishop De Maupas would have conducted his secular business, probably including writing up the secular documents that allowed the Sisters of St. Joseph to be formed. He probably had meetings with Jean Pierre Medaille in this building. (see picture of civic building.)

Cathedral in Le Puy

Healing Stone

Exit for Pilgrims


Chapel of St. Clair

Above the door are the symbols of the phases of the moon.

Special code for Christians letting them know there were others in the town

Site of the Guillotine

Civic Building where business would have been conducted by Bishop De Maupas

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Time in Chambery

Words will not adequately convey my emotions of the time I spent in Chambery.  As most people who know me will tell you, I am not an overly sentimental or sappy person.  However, the number of times I had tears in my eyes during this part of my trip surprised and shocked me.

Following my discussion with Sr. Marie Pierre about the difference between global and international, I had a dream.  I was awake for several hours after that dream where I was filled with the sense of how much I belong as a sister of St. Joseph, and gratitude and love for the global community of Joseph.

I toured Chambery in the rain, visited the Hall of Memories and had a tour of the places in the French Alps from which many sisters who went to the United States came.

The Hall of Memories has been developed to be a lasting historical place for the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery.  As an aging province of the Chambery sisters, many are now retired from “active” ministry.  This place chronicles their founding, expansion, missionary efforts and continuation of the work world-wide.  (See pictures of the hall and one with Sr. Benedicte.)

I had the opportunity to visit a piece of the history with Sr. Marie Pierre when I went to the grave of Mother St. John Marcoux, the founder and first superior general of the Chambery sisters.  After many years of service and visionary leadership, Mother St. John went to a rural parish where she worked among the people.  I have attached a picture of her grave and the church where she was a member of the parish.

For my final day in Chambery, Srs. Benedicte and Jona took me through the many towns from which our sisters left to travel world-wide.

First we went to Moutiers.  I visited the church and the second house of the sisters in Moutiers.  There are many interesting things about the church, which I will write to you about on my way home.  What was most significant to me was to stand in the chapel where our sisters took their vows and from which they were sent to our missions.  By now, I feel very at home speaking of “our sisters.”  In a new way, I emotionally embrace our global family and feel very strongly about our history. The town has purchased our second home and it is now used for community events.  In the chapel is an exhibit that shows how the town looked in 1970.  (See picture of the church with the tour guide, Sr. Benedicte, me, Sr. Jona and the parish priest, the house with the statute of St. Joseph in the alcove and chapel).

The Sisters in Chambery are in the midst of a major change where they are moving from the building that has been their motherhouse for 55 years and from their mission at Aime.  On our trip into the mountains we stopped at Aime and had a wonderful mid-day meal with the Sisters.  They have a wonderful view of the mountains .

From there we headed up to Bourg St. Maurice.  The beauty on the way up is incredible.  When we got to the town I knew that a group of parishioners were going to meet with us for afternoon prayer.  The sisters no longer reside there but their history in the parish is a long one.  It is from this town that Mother St. John Facemaz came. 39 sisters from Moutiers, following Mother St. John Facemaz left Savoy in 1854 to strengthen the American Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.   I brought along a picture of Mother St. John and three of her family who she convinced to join her in the United States to show to the parish community (thank you Carondelet archives.)  Much to my surprise, we were met by the family decedents of Mother St. John who still reside in Bourg St. Maurice.  Srs. Jona, Bernadette and I sang a song as part of the prayer service and then we had a little gathering at the priest’s house.   The picture has the parish priest, me, the wife and her husband who is the decendent of Mother St. John. 

The ride back was beautiful (see pictures).  What a full day and a rich history.  I cannot adequately convey what this pilgrimage through this historic area meant to me.