Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Welcome to St Athanasius

Patty and Justine
Sr. Justine outside St Athanasius Convent
On August 1, 2014, eleven sisters at St Athanasius Convent in Brooklyn, New York became an even dozen as they welcomed Sr. Justine Senapati into their community and their hearts.  Sr. Justine, an Annecy sister from India, is the new Representative of the Congregations of St Joseph at the United Nations Non-Governmental Organization. 

Sr. Justine outside St Athanasius Convent
Justine and Betty
In early September, I came for my first on-site visit and it was obvious that Justine and the St Athanasius sisters were meant to be together.  The easy give and take, gentle teasing about Justine's preference for spicy food, and helpful advice has helped Justine make a smooth transition into her new position.  Whether it is a formal meal or just picking up breakfast, meaningful conversation occurs.  Justine noted that  coming from a large family and larger local communities in India, she really appreciates having other sisters around with whom to talk.  She has obviously picked up the rhythm of the house and fits right in.
Mass in the community chapel

Enjoying Indian food with the CSJ-UN-NGO staff, from left to right, Srs. Marianne, Justine and Barbara
She has met Indian nationals in the parish too who have welcomed her to their home for a meal and speak with her after Sunday mass.  The sisters keep introducing her to other people they know who have a national origin of India such as doctors and priests.  During my visit we went to an Indian Restaurant twice for lunch.

Sr Justine really enjoys this peaceful oasis in the middle of Brooklyn
Joining with the other sisters in cleaning up after a birthday celebration
St Athanasius is a very nice convent with a spacious community room, large kitchen with heavy duty appliances (with 12 that is needed), smaller parlors for visiting, a chapel, a small but lovely walled in outdoor space, and large dining room.  Justine has commented to me how important it is for her to be in touch with the earth, so having this small outdoor space in the middle of Brooklyn where she can see flowers and trees is very important.  

Justine's spacious bedroom
Justine has a large bedroom with an attached bathroom.  As I knocked on her bedroom door I could hear Indian music playing in the background.  The sisters at St Athanasius really appreciate what Justine shares about her native country, their customs, foods (she tones down the spices for the sisters), and her congregation.  As she was describing the number of younger sisters in India and how Justine is considered older in India, they were surprised.

Justine uses the subway like a pro
It is hard to imagine coming to another culture, speaking a different language, and really not knowing anyone very well.  How lucky Justine is to have such a welcoming group where she fits right in and can feel so at home.  There are so many values among the Sisters of St Joseph that cut across cultures.  One of the great things I get to experience in my position as Executive Director of the US Federation, is the "at-homeness" of being in so many different congregations across the globe.  I want to offer a special thanks to the Sisters of St Joseph of Brentwood who have welcomed Justine into their community life, as the Brentwood sisters at St Patrick Convent welcomed Griselda when she was the CSJ-UN-NGO Representative.