As Sisters of Saint Joseph, we enter the New Year more sure of and committed to God’s desire, that all may be one. “Like our First Sisters, we are “eyes wide open, ears attentive, spirit alert, sleeves rolled up” * to heal the divisions of our day. With you, we look at the world God loves and see a country divided, a crisis of what media to trust, a world of devastating piecemeal wars, orphaned children, countless refugees, festering pockets of hate and a resistance to what science is telling us about the plight of Earth. Violence and threat are palpable. It is easy to be overwhelmed and paralyzed by the scope of the needs, and that can block us from the small but great good we can accomplish where we are.
|Sr. Rita Woehlcke|
We believe God desires a different future and that we sisters and you who love our mission are all God has and exactly who God wants to help make God’s dream a reality. We hear the challenge:
“The human heart can go to the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes.
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us ‘til we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake for pity’s sake?”
“A SLEEP OF PRISONERS” from the play with that title, by Christopher Fry, 1951
And so the question looms, “How big is my soul?” Our first sisters physically felt the hunger, the miseries of 17th century France. They were ONE WITH. Our lives prepare us for the same heartfelt connections. What heartbreak and loss have stretched my heart so that I feel and know the grieving parents and widows of the Middle East? What personal trauma creates solidarity in me with all who suffer oppression, derision or shame, simply for being who they are? What debt of gratitude for unmerited blessings I have received binds me to those in need of my blessing?
While the Sisters of Saint Joseph are grateful for your appreciation of their spirit and good works, we are longing for more than admiration. We are longing for you to be one with us, God and all our dear neighbors. Join us in “exploration into God”— not through big projects, but by building daily relationships of reverence through the practice of non-violence.
Pope Francis wrote this message for the 50th World Day of Peace on January 1, 2017:
On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms. Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not all.
“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers.”  In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.” 
With Pope Francis, with you, we, Sisters of Saint Joseph, can say, “Thank God we have one another, this mission and our ever faithful God to help us be more great-hearted than we dared to dream, ask or imagine.
Rita Woehlcke SSJ ministers as Director of SSJ Associates in Mission.