Monday, March 30, 2009

Sisters of St. Joseph issue Corporate Stance against Human Trafficking

Yesterday during our Congregation Gathering we took time to read together our Corporate Stance against Human Trafficking. The logo at the top is what we are using to accompany the stance The center part of the logo was created by a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia. She generously agreed to share it with us. What follows is the text of our corporate stance and a picture taken in our chapel as we prayed the words of our this stance together.

We, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, whose mission of unity and reconciliation impels us to promote right relationships, denounce the slavery of human trafficking in all its forms in every place where it exists.

We commit:

- to educate ourselves and others about the causes, consequences and magnitude of human trafficking

- to work to eliminate the root causes of human trafficking

- to minister to victims of human trafficking in collaboration with others

- to use our strength as consumers and investors to promote a just society that eliminates the incentives for human trafficking.

Visit the Justice and Peace page of our website for resources and links to information about human trafficking. There is also a very compelling film titled Fields of Mudan that can be viewed online by clicking on the title here. It is the story of Mudan, a frightened young Asian girl, who is forced into sex slavery. She's only seven years old. It seems unbelievable but this hidden crime is actually happening in our cities and towns.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Where are people getting news about religious life today?

The past two days have been spent at the Religion Communicators Council conference at the Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge. This is a picture of the Boston skyline taken from the hotel on Thursday morning. The conference was a great opportunity for networking with communicators from other religious denominations. I decided to go because I wanted to support the members of the local Boston chapter of RCC who had done a huge amount of work in preparation for the event. But I gained so much more from the experience. While there was a vast diversity of religious denominations, there was a powerful unity in the desire to effectively communicate the message and mission our organizations. I learned a lot and really had a chance to look at our ministry as communicators for women religious through a wider lens.

While helping with registration I met several students who were at the conference on scholarship. The whole concept of offering scholarships to college and graduate students who are interested in faith-based communications is brilliant. It’s energizing to the veteran members and places these younger people in a professional environment where they can build a network of relationships for the future. One of these students was Meg. She’s studying in Indiana but it turns out that she has connections with CSJs. This morning when I checked my email, I discovered that she had written about me on her blog. Here’s the link: Who knows, maybe someday Meg will end up working in communications for some group of Sisters of St. Joseph.

Both the keynote speakers and the breakout speakers were excellent. I learned so much. This morning’s panel of speakers included Michael Paulsen from the Boston Globe, Rachael Zoll from Associated Press, and John Yemma from the Christian Science Monitor . Today is the last day the Monitor will produce a print edition. The whole newspaper is going online. John explained some of the changes and the long range strategic communication plan that brought this about. It was not a quick decision. It was a good illustration of the changing landscape of how news is delivered. Online newsletters, blogs, wikis, twitter, facebook, and social networking in general were all discussed from the perspective of faith based communication. Michael told us he reads 107 blogs each day just to keep up with what’s going on. He spoke of the transformation in the “religion beat” in the nine years he’s worked for the Globe. So many papers across the country have cut their religion reporters. Rachael is one of the two AP religion reporters in our entire country. That’s astounding! I wonder how many sports reporters they have. Michael explained how online news is raising new questions. He asked, “If we’re picking what we read online, where’s the common conversation?” I found myself really pondering something else Michael said: “We’re experiencing the loss of a collective consciousness.”

As I drove home tonight, I wondered about the impact all of this has on how or if women choose religious life as a viable option? The web is clearly a vehicle for discerning this choice…but there’s such a plethora of options out there. How does a woman who desires to live a vowed life in community find the place that is the best fit for herself?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

March 25 and the Sisters of St. Joseph

March 25 turns out to be significant for a number of reasons. I led staff prayer this week and tried to incorporate a variety of themes that converge on this day. March in general is Women’s History Month. Today is the day the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary. It’s also the date when our sisters arrived in St. Louis, MO in 1836. It was from St. Louis that our congregation spread all over the United States and Canada. I am always in awe of the stories of these women who took amazing risks to spread the Gospel message across this country, Canada, and beyond. My mind is boggled when I try to picture how they did it without sophisticated methods of transportation and, miracle of miracles, without the internet or cell phones! We can’t even find each other in an airport today without a cell phone.

Another somewhat obscure fact that I just learned from our archivist is that March 25, 1880, is the date The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston was officially incorporated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We arrived here on October 2, 1873 so it took over six years for this process to happen.

On a more personal note, today would be the birthday of my cousin who passed away a few years ago at the age of 97. I think she would be 102 today. When I think if Mary, and her “Yes” to being the mother of Jesus, I think of my cousin as one who lived this “yes.” This cousin was also a Sister of St. Joseph. She was more like an aunt than a cousin and all during the time I was growing up, we visited her regularly. She was a grace filled woman. I suspect that she had a big influence on my becoming a sister even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

The picture at the top of this post was taken in the little chapel at the top of Rocher St. Michel in Le Puy, France. The picture on the masthead of this blog is a panoramic view of Le Puy and you can see the chapel at the top of the pinnacle [or puy in French] near the middle of the picture. There’s over 250 stairs that lead to this chapel. It’s quite a hike but the views are spectacular. I’ve done it four times on different visits to Le Puy. I tried to find a picture that spoke to me of the Annunciation. Maybe it’s because the chapel dates from the 10th century, the age alone of the place is inspiring. At the base of the pinnacle is an even smaller St. Gabriel chapel with lovely bronze art on the walls which depict the Annunciation.

Here's one picture I took on one of my hikes to the top of Rocher St. Michel. I must have hundreds on file. I like this one because it gives a sense of the old city of Le Puy. You can see the statue of Notre Dame du France and the Cathedral of Le Puy. It also looks out onto the part of town where the convent is located where the Sisters of St. Joseph first came together in Le Puy in 1650. Inside this convent you can still visit the ancient kitchen where they first gathered.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Different Kind of Spring Break

Every two weeks I publish an online newsletter for our sisters, Soundings Update is a supplement to the print version called Soundings which is published five times a year. You can view this week's update at

One of the stories in this edition is titled A Different Kind of Spring Break . It's about a group of college students who came to Boston for spring break. They lived at our Hospitality House for the week and volunteered at various non-profit service agencies during the day. On Thursday night they participated in the monthly celebration of Taize prayer at our Motherhouse. Follow the link and read more about it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

First Day of Spring/Anniversary of Final Vows

March 20
7:44 a.m. today is the vernal equinox and the official start of spring. For some reason this year I seem more excited about the start of sping then most years. Maybe it's because of the particularly snowy winter we've had in the Northeast. I've always loved crocuses and have quite a collection of crocus pictures. But for the past week I've been photographing them wherever I can find them. This one is from the front garden of Fontbonne Convent, one of our larger local communities.

March 20 also has special signifigance for me because it's the anniversary of the day I professed my perpetual vows as a Sister of St. Joseph. I had wanted to celebrate this event on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, but it didn't work out. So March 20 has been important to me for quite a few years. A couple of weeks before my "Final Vows," as the event is often called, a Sister of Providence whom I had met on a retreat sent me a book called "Peace Pays a Price." It's the story of Margaret Anna Cusack the foundress of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. This congregation has a different history than ours. They don't have roots in LePuy, France like most congregations who bear the name of St. Joseph. But they are an inspiring group and the story of their foundress certainly inspired me.

Once I read her story, it seemed as if there was no turning back. I had to learn all I could about our own heritage and the women who began our congregation. I started by volunteering in our archives for a couple of summers. I read everything that was available. It was at a time when new research on our history was being done in France. Over the years I've had wonderful opportunities to study more. Like many other Sisters of St. Joseph, I participated in countless retreats, workshops and CSSJ Federation events that helped us integreate this new research into our lives. This all came about after one of the documents of Vatican II [Perfectae caritatis] "mandated" that congregations of religious women undertake this kind of study.

During the summers of 2003 and 2005, I spent time in Concordia, Kansas at what is called the Bearers of the Tradition Institute. I've also had the opportunity to travel to France where we were founded. I had the was able to spend a week at our CSSJ International Centre and just "be" in the midst of what feels like the sacred space of our origins. Two of those times I coordinated pilgrimages for sisters and associates.

Perhaps the combination of these experiences has contributed to my desire to create this blog as one more way of telling some small part of the story of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Happy St. Joseph's Day

March 19 is the Solemnity of St. Joseph. It's a big feast day for all Sisters of St. Joseph. We have a liturgy at our Motherhouse this evening. It's always a celebration I look forward to. There are usually close to 200 sisters and associates who participate.

The other day a Dominican sister who is a friend of mine wrote and asked if I had any St. Joseph prayers. I remembered this one that I wrote a few years ago. It was printed on a little prayer card with a picture of St. Joseph on the front and given to all our friends and donors. Since I wrote it, I don't need to worry about copyright so I'll share it here. This picture is the statue of St. Joseph that is outside our Motherhouse. It also shows a little of the Motherhouse Residence building and part of the chapel.

Prayer to St. Joseph

God of Great Love,
Your son, Jesus,
was nurtured by St. Joseph.
May we look to Joseph
as our model of justice,
gentleness, and humility.
May we, with Joseph,
nurture the life of Christ
in our lives
and in the lives of others,
uniting all people
and all creation
with God and with one another.
May Joseph's life inspire us
to be a hopeful, healing presence
within our world.

© 1999 -- Joanne Gallagher, CSJ

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fostering connections, Discerning directions through the Internet

Every now and then I come across tidbits of information that convince me of the importance of blogging about being a Sister of St. Joseph in today’s world. A message came into my email box from the National Religious Vocation Conference [NRVC]. The letter gives some statistics about NRVC’s Vocation Match website.

Here’s what it says about women and men using the internet to learn about religious life:
  • Continued jump in interest in religious vocations attributed to desire for deeper spirituality and easier access to information via the Internet. Personal contact—real and virtual—essential Personal contact with a religious priest, sister, or brother continues to be the most helpful source of vocation information, considered essential or very important by 82 percent of discerners. Ranking next in importance is a community’s website, with more than 70 percent rating it important or very important in gathering information about a community. In what will surely be a growing trend in our YouTube culture, several discerners even remarked on the helpfulness of videos on vocation websites. “Come and See” weekends and discernment retreats followed a close third in order of importance. Spiritual directors and vocation-related websites also ranked high in importance with more than 60 percent saying they found these resources very helpful.

Earlier this month there was an article in NCR that spoke about “The God Given desire for connection”. You can view the whole article at by following the link

Here’s part of the article.

  • In the Internet's early days, critics -- many of them church folks -- assumed that online relationships were, at best, second-rate. At worst, they could be dangerous, luring people into fake intimacy with disingenuous strangers far away and tempting them to ignore relationships with people sitting right next to them. You know, real people. Sometimes cyber-relationships evolve into real-life ones. Almost everyone knows a married couple who met online. And sometimes real-life friendships turn into online ones, when friends move across the state, country or world. Or online communication supplements real-life relationships, helping friends who live nearby keep in touch more often than is possible with in-person visits or phone conversations.

I really appreciate what says about the how the Pope Benedict is preparing for World Communications Day which is comes at the end of May.

  • Even the surprisingly technology-savvy Pope Benedict XVI (who reportedly has an iPod) has jumped on the online bandwagon with his own video blog on YouTube ( In January, Benedict released a message praising the Internet for the opportunities it gives us to satisfy our God-given desire for connection.
    "Young people, in particular, have grasped the enormous capacity of the new media to foster connectedness, communication and understanding between individuals and communities, and they are turning to them as means of communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing ideas and opinions," the pope writes in "New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship."
    But Benedict also warns of the possibility of shallow cyber-friends trivializing the true experience of friendship or of online obsessions interfering in our real-life relationships.

I looked for a website that would have more information about this message of the pope. You can go to the Vatican Website. The Catholic church in England also has a page with good links to the Pope’s YouTube page and the full text of his World Communication Day Message.

A lot of people are so fearful of using a public forum like a blog or YouTube video. But there are lots of good uses for these emerging technologies and they are worth exploring.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Zeal for Healing the Neighborhood of the Universe

Where does the time go? It seems the past two weeks have evaporated before my eyes. It seems I've been involved in a number of activities related to the Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Every few years we have a event that brings together sisters and associates from the 16 congregations in the US that trace their roots to LePuy, France. The next event is in July 2011 and I’m part of the planning committee. The committee met at our vacation/retreat house in Nahant from March 2-5. I already know some of the group and met others for the first time. There are 9 of us from all over the United States. I’ve participated in almost every Federation Event since the 1970’s when they first started national gatherings. So it’s exciting to be part of shaping this one.

We spent a lot of time deciding on a theme for the event. The graphic at the top of this post gives the theme which is "Zeal for Healing the Neighborhood of the Universe." The logo is still in process. Part of my work will be to work with other CSSJ communicators on all the aspects of communications and public relations for the event. So you can be sure to hear more on this blog as information becomes available. You can get an overview of what the federation is about at

I returned to my office for one day and on Saturday headed across the state Holyoke, MA, for another meeting of the Atlantic Region of the Federation. I wrote about the work that this group has been doing in my January 31 post. The Weaving Relationships gatherings have met with such positive feedback that we plan to expand and offer similar gatherings again next year. We are in the process of asking others to be presenters and facilitators. It’s a wonderful way to meet sisters in other CSSJ congregations who share the same spirit, spirituality, and history.