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:

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