By Sister Judith Minear, CSJ
Sisters of Saint Joseph are amazing. I don’t say that to toot my own horn, even though I am a sister.
I first discovered how remarkable sisters are when I entered religious life in 1997 in Wheeling, WV. I was in my mid-forties, so I was a late vocation (very late. Tardy, even). Once my entrance ceremony was over, and moving day neared, I was both excited and nervous. I had asked to live at our Motherhouse in Wheeling (aka “the Mount”) where most of the retired sisters I knew lived because this was my chance to get to know them more deeply.
Thankfully my request was accepted, and then panic set in. I remember thinking, “I am completely disrupting the flow of life for these sisters, most of whom are in their late 70s to 90+. Adding even 1 more woman changes everything!”
And it did change everything, for them and for me…and the change was generous and wonderful. I was welcomed with open arms, and the shifts made to welcome me into prayer circles, laundry schedules, conversations, think tanks and more seemed effortless on their parts. When I exclaimed to my sisters how grateful and astonished I was at how easily they created space for me in their lives, one sister remarked, “This is who we are. This is what we do.” I felt so loved and welcomed. I felt at home.
Then, beginning in 2001, merely four years after I entered, conversations began to occur among seven independent congregations of Sisters of St. Joseph about joining together and becoming one congregation. A merger of sorts. We began to consider what we could do together to move our mission forward that we could not do alone. What were we willing to sacrifice in order to do that? How would we share our resources?
Once again, I watched sisters ranging in age from late 30s to 90+ dive deeply into their lives and hearts to make a decision that would launch changes in nearly every aspect of life and ministry. But I knew by then that sisters were pioneers. Regardless of age and despite the aches and pains of saying goodbye to life as they had known it, sisters from more than seven different areas of the country affirmed the decision to move forward together as one, and in 2007, the Congregation of St. Joseph was born. From the very first moment, our eyes were shining – some with tears as we let go of the familiar – but also with love and hope as we began this new adventure together.
Since then, the congregation continues to make bold decisions regarding the best use of our land and resources both for our sisters and the communities we serve. Many of our founding congregations have built new buildings to house our “retired” sisters (fact: sisters never really retire). These buildings were built to high assisted living and environmental standards.
One such new building is in Cleveland, where I now live and work. Our sisters moved just this month, and I offered my help on moving day. How can I describe the excitement, joy, deep gratitude and enthusiasm of these women as they were uprooted and replanted into another building? Sure, there were also moments of frustration, exhaustion, grumbling and confusion. But the grace and gratitude I saw that day moved me to tears and reminded me again of what I’ve experienced so many times with our sisters. “This is who we are. This is what we do.”
What a gift to have entered this Congregation almost 22 years ago! So much has changed, but one thing has not – home is wherever love lives. Love for our God, love for each other and every dear neighbor, love for all of creation, and love for our mission of unity, “that all may be one.”
Love is our home…and all are welcome in this place!
About the Author
Sister Judith Minear currently serves as part of a 3-member team for CSJ Ministries as Coordinator for Mission Integration. CSJ Ministries is the umbrella organization that works with our 25 sponsored ministries. In her free time, she loves drawing zentangles, stalking birds and savoring poetry.