Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sisters of St. Joseph Throughout the World...and Pentecost

The latest issue of Soundings Update is available on the Boston CSJ website at . This week we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit enflamed the hearts of the apostles to go to every corner of the earth with the message of Jesus. This past week our Church celebrates the 43rd World Day of Communications. The full text of the pope’s message can be viewed by following clicking the title of the day in the previous sentence. I know I've used this map of Where Sisters of St. Joseph are living and working throughout the world but I thought that combination of the Feast of Pentecost and World Day of Communications was a good moment to include it again. Here is an excerpt from Pope Benedict’s message: The speed with which the new technologies have evolved ... should not surprise us, as they respond to a fundamental desire of people to communicate and to relate to each other. This desire for communication and friendship is rooted in our very nature as human beings ... In the light of the biblical message, it should be seen primarily as a reflection of our participation in the communicative and unifying Love of God, who desires to make of all humanity one family. This message speaks volumes to us as Sisters of St. Joseph and Associates whose mission is to communicate the unifying Love of God to all. MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI FOR THE 43rd World Day of Communications "New Technologies, New Relationships. Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship." May 24, 2009

As I write this post, I must also share my Pentecost experience. Yesterday I joined other friends of Weston Priory in celebrating the life of Brother Phillip of Weston Priory . Brother Phillip passed away on December 24, 2008. His burial and a memorial Eucharist was celebrated for the Feast of Pentesost. When you go to the Weston Priory website, click the link to Bulletin: Spring/Summer 2009. The entire issue is dedicated to Brother Phillip.

About eight of the Mexican Benedictine Sisters where there. Both the brothers and the Mexican sisters spoke of Brother Phillip's love for the people of Mexico and of his last visit there. I recall that visit because the brothers stayed at our vacation house in Nahant. I was one of those who drove them to the airport. Brother Phillip was already limited because of ALS and I recall the courage with which he entered into this journey, as well as the loving care of the brothers who made it possible.

As hundreds of us walked to the gravesite, we passed a meadow teeming with dandelion puffs. The wind was strong. I couldn't help reflecting on this as an image of his life. The winds of the Spirit are stong and the seeds of compassion, friendship, love, and so much more that Brother Phillip shared with others are now blowing where they will in the lives of those who knew him. What a perfect day to celebrate his life.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Boston Area Religious Women Leaders Speak Out against Human Trafficking

Several times I have written about how The Boston Unit of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious [LCWR] has been working to raise awareness of the horrific crime of human trafficking.
A week from today is Pentecost Sunday. The Boston Unit of LCWR has chosen Pentecost Sunday to issue a statement about human trafficking.
Here is the statement:

Boston Area Religious Women Leaders Speak Out against Human Trafficking

Boston: Human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery, is becoming as common as the sale of illegal drugs and weapons. Human trafficking is such a hidden crime it is difficult to know exactly how many cases of human trafficking arise in Massachusetts.

As a global institution, the Catholic Church, has denounced this horrific crime because it constitutes an offense against human dignity and fundamental human rights. Pentecost is considered the birthday of the church. On the first Pentecost the Holy Spirit enflamed the hearts of the apostles to go to every corner of the earth with the message of Jesus. In this spirit, the Boston Unit of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has set aside Sunday, May 31, Pentecost 2009, as an opportunity to express solidarity with all who are working to put an end to human trafficking.

In particular, we express our support of Massachusetts, Senate Bill 58. The effects of this bill are far reaching. Among the benefits of this bill are the establishment of a Victims of Human Trafficking Trust Fund and a Human Trafficking Safe House, to provide emergency shelter for victims. The bill will also enhance sentencing guidelines for parties found guilty of trafficking and will require the court to provide restitution to victims. Additionally, the bill would establish an Anti-Trafficking Task Force led by the Office of the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Today women religious all over the world are addressing the crime of human trafficking. Our religious congregations have NGO representatives at the United Nations who address the issue at a global level. We women religious leaders in the greater Boston area are committed to speak out locally because we are human beings, because we are women, because we are women religious with a history of Catholic social teaching, and because we live and work in the Boston area where the trafficking trade is a real though hidden crime.

Women religious are well known in the greater Boston area as educators and health care professionals. The Boston Unit of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious [LCWR] includes sixteen Congregations representing over a thousand women religious in the greater Boston area.

We encourage all people of greater Boston to support Massachusetts Senate Bill 58 and be aware of how the passage of this bill will help victims and survivors of human trafficking. The reality of thousands of our brothers and sisters laboring in modern day slavery compels us to speak out today in an effort to let the people of Massachusetts know that they, too, can support this bill, serve the survivors of this crime, and stop human trafficking.

The Boston Unit of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious [LCWR] includes sixteen Congregations representing over a thousand women religious in the greater Boston area. Members of LCWR are Catholic women religious who are leaders of their orders in the United States. The conference has approximately 1500 members, who represent about 95 percent of the 67,000 women religious in the United States. The conference develops leadership, promotes collaboration within church and society, and serves as a voice for the systemic change called by the social justice teaching of the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sisters of St. Joseph -- Vocations

Our webweaver has just posted a newly revised Vocation webpage. Among other things the page links to the two YouTube videos listed at the right and back to this blog. It also has some good questions and contact information for anyone who is curious about religious life.
Please visit our newly revised Vocation Webpage at

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mexico Reunion and Sharing the State of Our Hearts

Last October I went to Cuernavaca, Mexico, for Ten Days of Faith & Hospitality with the People of Mexico. This marked the seventh time I had accompanied groups on this immersion retreat. When I worked as a Campus Minister, my friend and I accompanied [chaperoned] several groups of students. The last couple of times we’ve brought adults. The Monks of Weston Priory, Vermont organize this pilgrimage with the Benedictine Sisters of Guadalupana in Mexico. You can read all about it at

The experience is centered around the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her significance to the people of Mexico. The mandala at the top is something I designed after one of our visits. This is one of the Benedictine sisters explaining the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

While we were there last October, the group talked about having a reunion. Over half of us are from the New England. The others are from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California. I never thought we could pull off a reunion. But there was a real desire to gather again. Sally and Kathy, two women in the group, are from Damariscotta and Pemaquid, Maine and they invited us to their homes in Maine. Eleven of us managed to show up. The weekend was pure gift. Most of us arrived at Sally's around midday on Saturday and went to lunch in Damariscotta. The afternoon proved to be a relaxed way to reminisce about our Mexico experience. It was clear that the group wants not only sustain what we learned during our time in Mexico but also to continue to grow in our awareness of the needs of the people there. We all expressed a desire to do something to continue reaching out to the Benedictine sisters who gave so selflessly of themselves during our pilgrimage.

We were all so happy to be together once again that the afternoon just seemed to unfold effortlessly. A surprise happening was a visit to the fish ladder at Damariscotta Mills. Some had never heard of a fish ladder but as a child, I used to visit the herring run in Brewster each spring. It’s basically the same thing. It’s amazing to watch the fish swim against the current in order to reach the place where they spawn. Witnessing these fish defy all odds to give birth to their next generation is quite a metaphor for life.

It's really difficult to photograph the fish but I tried. If you look closely you can see them as they make their way up the "ladder." It's not literally a ladder. You can read more about it at:

It was a foggy windswept afternoon but we still made a visit to Pemaquid Lighthouse and then went back to Kathy’s house. Before dinner we had a simple but lovely prayer that offered ample opportunity for the group to share the state of their hearts since the last time we’d been together. After supper -- a delicious fish stew -- we called each person who was not able to be with us. One was in a hospital recovering from surgery, another visiting family in Kansas...we are quite spread out indeed! We had used the Weston Priory song "Life is a Journey" for prayer. It describes not only the people we met in Mexico but our group as well. The next morning, after a delicious breakfast we went to Mass at a local church and then were on our way home. Our next opportunity to be together will be in September… more on that later.

Here are just a couple of other Mexico pictures. I have hundreds! The first is a family we visited who sell roses in the market place each day. We bought their roses that day. The second is women outside the old Cathedral in Cuernavaca selling jewelry. The sisters know these women and support the sale of their crafts.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Soundings Update: A Publication of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston

I hope you enjoy this issue of Soundings Update. I must say, I enjoyed putting it together. Click anywhere on either the title above or the picture of the tulips.

In this Issue:

  • More Than a Box by Rita McCormack, CS

  • Outreach to Women Update by Mary Rita Weschler, CSJA

  • Reflections on the May 1, 2009, Associate Commitment by Linda Boothroyd, CSJA

The tulips were photographed at Cunningham Park when I went for a walk there the other day. It's a special place for me because it's where I grew up, learned to swim, ice skate, and even became a Girl Scout. I love walking around the park and being in the space of so many wonderful childhood memories. The other day a young mother approached me with a clipboard and asked me to sign a petition to save the East Milton branch of the local library. I wanted to cry! That's the library that I'd walk or bike to every week. They had a great series of children's historical fiction. I must have read them all. I think that's where I developed my love for historical fiction. The woman had a young daughter with her. I looked at the little girl playing on the swings and of course signed the petition -- not for myself -- but for that little girl.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Perfect Saturday Day of Prayer

Yesterday was pure gift. A group of sisters gathered at one of our houses by the ocean in Cohasset for a day of reflection. The group included newer members, the sisters who live with them, sisters from our hospitality house, and members of our Initial Formation Team.
Dorothea, one of our sisters, facilitated our prayer during the day. This picture is of the centerpiece in the room where we gathered. It includes a bible, a statue of Mother St. John Fontbonne, a candle that was brought from a visit toTaize, France, during our 2008 CSSJ Heritage, and scarf that was given to all who participated in the 200th anniversary of MSJF regathering sisters after the French Revolution and beginning the expansion of the Sisters of St. Joseph throughout the world.

The statue has MSJF with one foot forward always ready for the next good thing. I've included a picture that focuses on that part of the statue. The original is a full size statue designed by Mary Southard, CSJ from Illinois and is in the center of the Heritage Center in Lyon France.

More about the day: The day of prayer was really a refreshing opportunity for all who gathered. There was ample time for personal prayer and time to share the state of our heart. We all come from such full ministries. During her introduction, Dorothea invited us to slow down "the frieight train of our restless minds and hearts." This really touched my soul. I realized how full the previous week had been and her words really allowed me to slow down.

The sisters who gathered were so grateful for the time to connect with God and one another in this way. It was a perfect follow-up to Gathering the Daughters. There we were with 65 newer members of the Sisters of St. Joseph from all over the US and Canada as well as those who are part of Formation Teams. At this day of prayer we were with our newer members and some who are on the journey with them in our local Boston Congregation. The balance of the two gatherings was wonderful.
On another note: When I wrote the explanation of the statue of MSJF with one foot forward, it reminded me to mention the article about Sister Anna Mary Kelly that is in today's Boston Globe. She was a woman who, like Mother St. John Fontbonne, always had one foot forward ready for the next new thing. Sister Anna Mary passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 97. This is a link to the article in today's Globe and a couple of other recent articles about her.
From the Boston Globe:
From The Pilot -- the archdoicesan Catholic newspaper:
From our Boston CSJ website:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Associates of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston

May 1 has become the date when our Boston CSJ Associates renew their commitment.
Associates are women and men who desire to share our faith journeys with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston in a mission of unity and reconciliation. Our Associate program began in Boston 1985. We have several sisters in New Mexico and the Associate expanded to New Mexico around 2001. There are over 80 associates in Boston and New Mexico. A few years ago, I was invited to go to New Mexico to offer a day of reflection on our history and spirituality for the Associates there. A couple of months later, I offered the same presentation for our Boston Associates.

Last Friday the Boston Associates renewed thier commitment. There are also nine women who are candidates for the Associate program. The New Mexico Associates will renew their commitment in early June.

We offer the Associate program for women and men who are drawn to live the spirit and spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph and desire to share in its response to the changing needs of the Church and society. Many other religious congregations do the same. You can even download a brochure about the program from our website.