Saturday, January 31, 2009

Weaving Relationships

In my introduction to this blog I explained that there are 16 congregations of Sisters of St. Joseph in the U.S. and even more throughout the world. In the U.S. there are several regions. My Boston Congregation is part of the Atlantic Region which also includes congregations coming from Winslow, ME, Springfield, MA, West Hartford, CT, Brentwood, NY, Philadelphia, PA, and Saint Augustine, FL. A couple of years ago an Atlantic Federation Core Committee began meeting. I’m one of the Boston sisters on that committee. We met today in Holyoke, MA, at the Motherhouse of the Springfield sisters. Some of the committee joined us via conference call.

Over the past two years we’ve had a series of three-day gatherings called “Weaving Relationships.” As the title suggests, this is not a workshop or conference. It is an opportunity for sisters to explore and share the joy, wonder, and gift of our charism. We believe that relationships are core to our living and so these gatherings are to deepen our connections with one another. This is a picture of a table centerpiece from one of the gatherings.
The gatherings have been very successful. Today we assessed the original goals of this committee which is to enhance the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph. In addition, we want to do this in way that fosters inter-congregational relationships among Sisters of St. Joseph in the member congregations. It seems as if these opportunities to come together have been a huge success. By April, almost 200 sisters and associates will have participated in one of seven of these gatherings.

Because these gatherings received such a positive response, we’re looking at what kinds of opportunities we might offer next year. A lot of good ideas were generated and we all left with “homework” that will move this forward.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

An unexpected thank you

A few posts ago I wrote about a 7th grade girl who contacted our Communications Office and did a report on the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. I just thought I’d share a delightful sequel to that story. Last week the girls sent me pictures of their completed project and thanked me. So today it was completely unexpected when a big box appeared in my office. In it was a lovely thank you note from both girls who were part of this project and what is called a “Mardi Gras King Cake.” I sent out a note to all the employees in our Motherhouse administrative offices and people came by to sample the cake. The cake was delicious and the gesture of gratitude was so thoughtful.

I’ve really enjoyed connecting with these girls and helping with their project. It turns out that they have connections with the Sisters of St. Joseph who live in Baton Rouge. Who knows, one day someone who viewed their project may consider becoming a Sister of St. Joseph!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vision Statement - Boston CSJs

About four times a year we have a day-long meeting that we refer to as a “Congregational Gathering.” We come together quite often in addition to these times for prayer and informal opportunities to be together. But the Congregational Gatherings have become important moments for growing together as Sisters of St. Joseph and Associates.

Sometimes we invite a speaker to reflect on a topic related to religious life. Last October we invited a Sister of St. Joseph from the Philadelphia Congregation. She's also the Assistant Director of NRVC [the National Religious Vocation Conference.]
Our “January Congregational Gathering” was last Saturday. It was quite a cold day but thankfully Mother Nature cooperated and the snow held off for at least one weekend. The day was mostly devoted to prayer and reflection on our vision statement. There’s no way I can even begin to summarize the sharing. But it was rich and powerful. Here is the vision statement that was the basis of the day’s prayer, reflection, and sharing.

with the compassion of God,
we Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston,
women of the Church,
rooted in the Gospel
together with our Associates,
are impelled
by the active, inclusive love of God to:
deepen our relationship with God
and the dear neighbor without distinction;
foster prophetic communion;
and journey into the future
with Sisters of St. Joseph and Associates
throughout the world,
and with all God's creation.
Vision Statement– Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston
The picture above is the "window" at the front of our Motherhouse chapel where the gathering took place. The shadow of the borderless world is created by projecting a world image from the back. This happened by accident one day when the projector screen was removed but the projector stayed on. Someone noticed it. I happened to have a camera in my had and took a number of pictueres of the image. We've used it a lot in our publications.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Outreach to Women: A New CSJ Ministry

Our Vocation Team offered Taizé Prayer this evening. Before the prayer, there was an informal open house for Sisters and Associates to learn more about Outreach to Women [OTW]. I didn’t do a specific count but it seemed as if there were over 30 Sisters and Associates who dropped by to learn more about this newly evolving ministry.

This statue and beautiful arrangement of tulips was on a side table at the open house. It seems like a fitting way to image this evolving ministry.

While the goal of OTW is to provide opportunities for women to improve the quality of their lives, this goal is not exactly new. For the 135 years we’ve been in Boston, Sisters of St. Joseph have served in a wide variety of areas including education, health, pastoral work, and much more. The common thread has always been to deepen the relationship with God and neighbor without distinction.

Outreach to Women continues this way of being with others by responding to today’s needs. We have always sought to help women in need. Mary Rita, one of our Associates, is the Director of OTW and is networking with Sisters, Associates, and agencies in the Brighton-Allston area to further develop this ministry. She also intends to do networking in other neighborhoods where Sisters and Associates are present.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A seventh grader's curiosity about sisters

One thing I love about my work as Director of Communication is that no two days are ever the same. A couple of days ago I received a call from a seventh grader in Louisiana. Apparently her teacher has assigned a project about religious life. I was ready to steer her toward the Congregation of St. Joseph who have sisters in Louisiana when she began telling me all about them. I guess someone else in the class has selected that group. So she found our CSSJ U.S. Federation website and from there came across the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston.

I was impressed by all the research this young girl had already done. Although she had a tough time pronouncing “Médaille,” she knew that the sisters based in Louisiana were formerly part of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Médaille and that they had become the Congregation of St. Joseph a couple of years ago.

She wanted pictures of us when we were in habits. She wasn’t familiar with the word “habit” and called it, “those weird clothes.” I explained how our first sisters didn’t wear habits. I told her how they wanted to go out and serve the poor in 17th century France but the only women who could be out on the streets unaccompanied by a man were widows. They wore black dresses because they had to look like other ordinary women who were out on the street in order to serve the people in need. I’m sure I gave her a lot more information than she bargained for – but no pictures of habits.

She also asked for pictures of our "headquarters" -- we call it the Motherhouse. What I was able to find was a picture of our sisters and associates at a Peace Vigil on Good Friday, 2008. There's a good view of the Motherhouse in the background.

She said she’d send pictures of her project when it’s completed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday Morning Staff Prayer

This morning we had staff prayer. This is offered every two weeks for anyone who works at the Motherhouse. Because last week was national migration week, our prayer was for migrants and refugees. Sister Rose who works in office of The Literacy Connection was leader for this week’s prayer. There was a lovely cloth in the middle of the table. It was a gift to The Literacy Connection from one of their Vietnamese students. Sister Ann Marie told an interesting story of how Asian people often give gifts for the family or home because home is where the heart is. It occurred to me that to use this cloth on our prayer table reinforces the fact that prayer is at the heart of all we do. Even the closing part of the prayer suggested this: We praise you and give you thanks for the family you have called together from so many people. We see in this human family a reflection of the divine unity of the one most Holy Trinity…”

Now I’m off to our Archdiocesan Pastoral Center to take pictures of two of our sisters who have edited and designed a book about sisters in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reporters' stereotypes of sisters!

If I ever questioned this blog, today convinced me of its value. A reporter from a small local newspaper contacted me last Friday. He wanted to do an article about recruiting sisters. I explained that we don’t “recruit.” We invite women to share in our life, our prayer, our ministry. He wanted to talk about diminishing numbers of sisters – He might have called us nuns! I explained that there are over 13,000 Sisters of St. Joseph worldwide and about 7,000 in the United States. That didn’t make it into the article.

The article came out this morning and the front page headline was, “Habit forming, Sisters using Websites to reach youth.” We never mentioned habits, said very little about websites, and there were comments attributed to me that I never said. I cringed! There is a lot of good information in the article but so much mis-information as well. Talking with reporters like this demands patience and persistence.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

a delightful Sunday afternoon

It snowed Saturday night and I shoveled a good part of Sunday morning. I wanted to clear our driveway because I had the unexpected opportunity to hear the Capella Clausura []. This is a women’s ensemble in Boston that specializes in music written through the centuries by nuns in monasteries. I’d never heard of them until a friend called and asked if I wanted join her for an Early Music concert. It sounded like fun so I went along.

I should explain that even though the words often get used interchangeably there is a difference between nuns and sisters. Nuns usually live in cloistered monasteries while sisters live among the people and engage in a ministry/service/job that responds to the needs of people. I belong to a community of sisters -- not nuns.

There were seven vocalists, two cellos, a keyboard, and the director. They did a number of short pieces by two 16th century women named Vittoria and Rafaella Aleotti. I’d never heard of them either but it was magnificent.

The woman who introduced the concert explained that this music was as respected and sought after in towns surrounding the monasteries as a sporting event would be today! Even after the Church officials barred women from performing in public, the women in the monasteries were resourceful in finding ways to continue singing. The concert turned out to be an unexpected gift both for the sheer enjoyment of the music and the opportunity to know of this group which is so committed to bringing to light the music of these talented women.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Taizé prayer & CSJ Associates

Our Associates are having their monthly gathering this week. Associates are women and men who desire to share their faith journeys with the Sisters of St. Joseph. This Saturday some members of our Vocation Team will talk about Taizé prayer with our Associates and will provide an opportunity to experience prayer in the spirit of Taizé.

Since last July, our Vocation Team has been offering Taizé prayer each month. We’ve advertised it on our website, in local papers, parish bulletins, and the Archdiocesan Catholic paper. This simple form of Christian prayer centered on scripture, silence, and song is based on daily prayer of the Taizé Community in France. Participants come from around the Archdiocese of Boston and join with us in this profound prayer experience. This is a picture of how the altar in our Motherhouse chapel was set up for the prayer.
Some of us have had the opportunity to actually visit Taizé in France during October, 2006 and April, 2008 while we were on a pilgrimage to parts of France where the Sisters of St. Joseph began over 350 years ago. Our visit to Taizé was brief but we were able to join in prayer with thousands of young people from all over the world. The come for a week at a time to be part of this powerful experience of ecumenical and multi-lingual prayer.

Our effort to offer this form of prayer at our Motherhouse is still in its beginning stages. However, we have received enthusiastic and positive responses from those who have joined with us.

You can learn more about this and how to participate in our next evening of Taizé prayer at:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Introducing A Sister of St. Joseph's Blog

My name is Joanne Gallagher, CSJ. I am a Sister of St. Joseph [CSJ]. We are a Roman Catholic religious community of women. I am based in the Boston area and am a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. But there are over 12,000 Sisters of St. Joseph and about 5,000 Associates all over the world. We are ordinary women from all walks of life. We are women of the church rooted in the Gospel. Our special focus, our mission, is to work for unity and reconciliation where there is brokenness, to help people become whole and holy, individually and together. Together with our Associates we are impelled by the active, inclusive love of God to deepen our relationship with God and neighbor without distinction.

I work as Director of Communication for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. I love being a sister and have always looked for ways to share our spirituality and rich heritage with others. In publishing newsletters and working with the press, I realize there is so much about the way in which sisters and associates live their day-to-day lives that does not make it into the news. A Sister of St. Joseph’s Blog is intended to be about our life as Sisters of St. Joseph in those ordinary moments you don’t usually hear about in the news.
You can learn about us at:

We also have two YouTube posts at