By Jennifer Berridge, Candidate for Vowed Membership
with the Congregation of St. Joseph
I come from a long legacy of love. My family are good people. Warm, caring, honest, hard-working, helpful, “salt of the earth” people. My Mom has always been the kind of person who would drop everything to help anyone at any time. My Grandmother is the same way. Those who have come before me in my family are compassionate, sensitive, and kind. We were born to love. It’s in our DNA.
But for me personally, there were times in my life when I didn’t always operate out of love alone. I used to let the world define me, with all its deceitful messages and false descriptions of what a woman should be. A wiser place inside me knew that the world’s characterizations of women just weren’t good enough. I had to ask myself the hard questions that we have all had to ask ourselves at some point in our lives. I started with: Who am I? As I searched, I began to understand that my ultimate identity is found in God alone. I found that this is the truth of who I really am, and it has forever changed the way I see myself and others. I am a witness, living and breathing, that God is good!
Jennifer with Sisters Judith Minear,
Marie Hogan, and Kathleen Durkin
Once I accepted this truth, no other fabrication that the world offers will ever be good enough. I no longer buy in to the constructs that the world imposes on women. I believe that we can all just be who we are, who we were born to be: authentic and real. We were created awesome and unique in God’s sight. God created all of us to be in loving relationship with each other and all of creation. When I think of love, I think of radical availability and radical receptivity – the kind of love that gives and receives from a mutual place that blesses all. I have found that the love I give, I receive in turn tenfold.
Since January 23rd, 2016, I have been a Candidate to become a Sister in the Congregation of St. Joseph community. I am blessed to have been offered the opportunity to invite others into this love that unites. We are called to a love of God and love of neighbor without distinction. Love is a part of our foundation!
The day Jennifer Officially Became a Candidate
with the Congregation of St. Joseph!
So what is it like to be a Sister with the Congregation of St. Joseph? I spoke at a luncheon this June and tried to explain how my life is different now. In my speech, I said that who I am now is definitely my best self. Who I am now is who I know myself to be. I feel very centered, grounded, whole, healthy, and happy. I often say that I have been an adult before, but I have never been a Sister of St. Joseph before. So I simply ask our community of sisters for support, encouragement, and love. I pray for all the graces that are needed along the journey. And I can honestly say that I have been given more than I need. Being in community is like having sisters as prayer warriors with super powers! When sisters pray, things happen.
it’s always a blessing to be with other sisters!
I was recently on a retreat at Saint Mary’s By the Sea in Cape May Point, New Jersey. One of the many graces of the retreat was watching the sunset in the evenings at Sunset Beach, as well as getting ice cream with new friends! The sun coming down over the ocean revealed to me the power of love right there in from of me, rising and setting with each new day. It was a wonderful experience. Another grace of the retreat was meeting other Sisters of St. Joseph in formation, sisters of all ages, as well as women from different religious communities. Relationships naturally formed. What a gift to be welcomed by all in love!
This sunset was a reminder of the power of love!
Derek Tasker says in his poem I Wonder:
I wonder what would happen if
I treated everyone like I was in love
with them, whether I like them or not
and whether they respond or not and no matter
what they say or do to me and even if I see
things in them which are ugly twisted petty
cruel vain deceitful indifferent, just accept
all that and turn my attention to some small
weak tender hidden part and keep my eyes on
that until it shines like a beam of light
like a bonfire I can warm my hands by and trust
it to burn away all the waste which is not
never was my business to meddle with.
I pray for the grace to love like the light from a bonfire. I pray that I will remember the Sunset Beach moments in my life, all the flashes of light that stop me in my tracks to gaze upon the beauty of God’s love. In the end, I would rather be able to say that I loved too much than not at all. In the end, I want to know that I was able to carry on that from which I came, a legacy of love.
May we all have the grace to love
like the bonfire light!
About the Author
Jennifer Berridge is a current Candidate with the Congregation of St. Joseph. A native of Cleveland, OH, she currently lives with sisters from the congregation in Wheeling, WV and serves as a Youth Care Worker at St. John’s Home For Children. In her free time, Jennifer like to write, listen to audiobooks, watch movies, and visit with sisters.