The spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph harkens back to Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper, "that all may be one" (John 17). Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ) always move toward profound love of God and neighbor without distinction. These words are from the International CSJ Consensus Statement and describe the "Joseph Charism" as lived throughout the world since our beginnings in mid-17th-century France to the present in Boston. For us, relationship is the heart of our mission. We commit ourselves to creating ever-widening circles of unifying love and responding to the "dear neighbor" in our midst.
With Vatican II came the call for religious congregations to immerse themselves in the inspiration of our original foundation and to pay attention to new ways that the Holy Spirit invites lay men and women to participate in our life and mission. The Sisters of St. Joseph took this call very seriously.
Our 150th anniversary in Boston is this year, 2023. The theme of this year, "Unifying Love Flares," suggests that the Holy Spirit continues to call us to something new and important during this year of celebration. St. Paul reminds us that there are a variety of gifts but the same Spirit. We know God has a special plan for the life of each person. It is so important to listen attentively to God's call and respond with a generous "yes." Many have heard the call to embrace the Joseph Charism as vowed members -- sisters, or as associates, agregees, and partners in mission.
This critical moment in history cries for people dedicated to bridging divisions and witnessing to oneness. The invitation is not only about "joining with the sisters," but about living the mission of unifying love together in what we call the Community of Joseph. So, who are these people, and what do these "titles" mean?
Sisters of St. Joseph are ordinary women of the Church called to live the Gospel in a manner that witnesses to God's inclusive love. We express our love of God and neighbor through public vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. We live a life of personal and communal prayer as we grow together in community. We promote the well-being of the Earth and the global neighborhood and express God's unifying love through a variety of works of justice, serving the dear neighbor without distinction. If this sounds like a lot of religious jargon, basically, it means that we try to live our ordinary lives in extraordinary ways with Christ as our center.
In 1986, another way of living our mission, called associates, began to develop. Associates are women and men, married and single, who desire to share their faith journey with the CSJs through living the mission of unifying love. They gather monthly to share faith and grow in awareness of God's inclusive love. Associates renew this commitment annually. Associates, too, are ordinary people who share the CSJ spirit within their families, among friends, and through their personal vocations and careers.
The term agregee dates from our early French roots when, for various reasons, some women were not called to the vowed life. They lived their life of commitment in the spirit of the CSJs as single women throughout the French countryside. In 2018, the agregee relationship began to develop in Boston. Our Boston agregees continue this early tradition. They are single women called by God to express their commitment through a lifelong non-canonical vow to God of fidelity to the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph. This vow is lived out in all activities of their daily lives and work.
A fourth relationship, which we call partners in mission, includes women and men who embody CSJ spirit and values. These women and men further the mission of unity as leaders in our ministries, employees, trustees, and volunteers. Others are donors, former members, and occasional volunteers. Still others, though not formally connected, live their daily lives in a way that resonates with our spirit and brings the mission to life. These partners respond to God's call to reach out in word and action to all people without distinction in our neighborhood and global community.
Our life as Sisters of St. Joseph is about remembering, cherishing, and imitating the values of Joseph. We seek to imitate the inexhaustible riches of the life of Joseph, who continues to mentor us in welcoming the Jesus who stands before us in "the dear neighbor without distinction."
Today in the United States, the CSSJ U.S. Federation consists of 2,931 sisters, 2,972 associates, 46 agregees, and countless partners in mission in the 16 Congregations of Sisters of St. Joseph throughout this country. Throughout the world, we number 14,000 members in 55 countries. Stay up to date on all that's going on with the Sisters of St. Joseph at www.csjboston.org.
SISTER JOANNE GALLAGHER, CSJ, IS DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, AND SISTER MARIAN BATHO, CSJ, IS A MEMBER OF THE BOSTON LEADERSHIP TEAM FOR THE SISTERS OF ST. JOSEPH.
- Sister Marian Batho is the former Delegate of Religious of the Archdiocese of Boston.