By Jennifer Berridge,
Candidate for Vowed Membership
with the Congregation of St. Joseph
In November of 2016, I began a new Ministry at St. John’s Home for Children. St. John’s is a licensed residential treatment center for boys ages 8-13. Opened in 1856 as an orphanage by Bishop Richard Whelan, the first Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, and the Sisters of St. Joseph, the St. John’s/St. Vincent’s Home for Children has been home to thousands of boys and girls over the past century and a half.
Before working at St. John’s, I had never really worked with boys before. I mainly worked with young women as a mentor and companion. I thought to myself, ‘Really? Boys? What do I know about boys?!?’ Then I had a realization that yes, it may be true that I don’t know boys. But I do know love. The advice that I received from our sisters who were in ministry at St. John’s long before me is “Just love them.”
I thought to myself, ‘Really? Boys? What do I know about boys?!?’ Then I had a realization that yes, it may be true that I don’t know boys. But I do know love.
Now, I can honestly say that this has been the best ministry experience that I have ever had! Although it’s not without its challenges, of course. On days that are difficult, I ask myself ‘If not I, then who? Who will love my boys? Who will companion them during this very difficult time in their lives?’
This is not always easy, but I am called to do my best. I have to give back. Some days, I have to dig deep. I turn to the wellspring of love that I know is from God alone. I ask for the graces that are needed for the day ahead. And I pray for the grace to use my life as a blessing wherever I am.
I am humbled by all the love, support, and encouragement that I have been so freely given by all of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in my life. This is the power of community. I am blessed beyond all measure to be in a community of sisters who genuinely love me and care about me. None of us can do this alone, but together I believe that we are powerful. Together, we can try to forge a new world with a love that connects. I believe in the inherent goodness of the human heart. And I believe that every day, in a thousand different ways, people are acting redemptively in each other’s lives, even though sometimes we are not paying as much attention to this as we could.
Being new to religious life, everything feels like another new experience. It can feel like a whole new world, a whole new vocabulary, which sometimes I don’t understand. So I ask a lot of questions. It’s humbling to me to be carrying on this long legacy of love that was started by our sisters so long ago. I can honestly say that this has been a harvest time in my life, a grace-filled time in my life, like I have never known.
God promises us that all things are made new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new Creation. The old has gone, the new has come. Behold, God make all things new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Now I am no Scripture scholar or nun expert! But I simply remind myself not to look at the challenges, focus on the fears, or walk down anxiety lane, even when I face difficulties at my job. I look solely to our Good and Gentle Shepherd. I fix my gaze on the face of Christ. In this brilliant light, things become clear. I look at God working through us all, always walking with us, and this gives me great hope.
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.