By Sister Sallie Latkovich
Laying the groundwork. Putting down the foundation. Paving the way. Whether it’s for an actual building, a project, or a committee, these sayings are often used to point towards the start of something. I believe we often use metaphors for building because they are such visual representations of what we aim for: new structure.
What is the “stuff” or our building?
So, what are the “building blocks” for community life as a Sister in the Congregation of St. Joseph? I’d like to explore three of these building blocks, which are the very foundation of the strong relationships we share: our stories, our vision, and our commitment.
OUR SHARED STORIES
We, the Congregation of St. Joseph, share many stories. Some of these stories we also share with the wider world, starting with the story of our Earth, created by God, which nurtures all of life and our lives. We also share our Judeo-Christian heritage of both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, with which we ponder and pray. We share being baptized into Christ, and members of the people-of-God Church.
We all share the stories of our Earth
As sisters, we also share our CSJ history and charism, from our founding in 1650 in LePuy, France. We embrace the stories of our earliest Sisters there, and those who set out for St. Louis in 1836. We love to hear the stories of the Sisters being called to other dioceses around the United States. For example, Mother St. George Bradley came to establish the Cleveland foundation, having been in St. Paul, as a province of St. Louis.
The story goes that the St. Louis Sisters had become urbanized while St. Paul remained quite rural. Mother St. George couldn’t accept the new constitution of the St. Louis Sisters, and left St. Paul with all of the money and all of the novices! Mother St. George and her little band stayed in Erie for a short time, until she was invited to the diocese of Cleveland in 1872.
Sisters with one of our buildings in Cleveland
In 1898, Mother Theresa Fitzmaurice purchased property on the far west side of Cleveland where two buildings were constructed: a motherhouse and a boarding school for boys and girls. It was in 1905 that a large motherhouse was built and in 1929, St. Joseph Academy was built. Various repairs and additions came about; and even now, restoration is taking place.
Along with the buildings, we still revere some of the earliest writings of the Congregation, which came to be called the Congregation of the Great Love of God! These include, among other things, the Maxims, and our early Constitution.
We certainly share the stories of our mission and our ministries. These include schools where we have taught, parishes where we have served, and more recently, various services to the “dear neighbor” addressing the needs that have risen up such as immigration, sex-trafficking, direct service to the poor, gun control, etc.
To be short, it has been our shared experiences and stories such as these that bind us together as one.
OUR SHARED VISION
Our shared vision answers the question of “what do we see?” We see a world of oneness, the same world for which Jesus prayed: “That all may be one.” Thus, we see our mission as one of reconciling, unifying love in a world so in need of it.
OUR SHARED COMMITMENT
Recognizing that we are called to incarnate our mission and charism in our world in fidelity to God’s call in the Gospel, the Congregation of St. Joseph commits ourselves to four Generous Promises:
–we promise to take the risk to surrender our lives and resources to work for specific systemic change in collaboration with others so that the hungers of the world might be fed.
–we promise to recognize the reality that Earth is dying, to claim our oneness with Earth, and to take stopes to strengthen, heal and renew the face of Earth.
–we promise to network with others across the world to bring about a shift in the global culture from institutionalized power and privilege to a culture of inclusivity and mutuality.
–we promise to be mutually responsible and accountable for leadership in the congregation.
The call heard by St. Francis of Assisi from God was: “rebuild my Church.” We members of the Congregation of St. Joseph are busy rebuilding not only our brick and mortar structures, but rebuilding the community which gives us life, and gives life to the world!
About the Author
Sister Sallie Latkovich directs the Bible Study and Travel Program as well as the Summer Institute at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. As a member of the Bible Department, she teaches Biblical Foundations of Spirituality and The Bible For Ministry. She enjoys music, plays, and movies; and loves visiting family and friends.