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