Associate Volunteer Spotlight: Denver Associates

Learn more about how our Denver contingent of CSJ Associates are making a huge difference in their area and how they are building relationships with one another. 

By Associate Mary Ellen Lawrence

December was the end of the year, but for us in the CSJA Denver Community, it was a beginning as well. We started a relationship with the Denver Rescue Mission (DRM), which immersed us once again in dividing the city and answering the need of the poor. A newspaper clipping from the DRM led us to act for the street folks of Denver.

We put a call out for blankets and were overwhelmed by the response of our sisters, associates, friends and neighbors. One especially graced moment happened when a gay couple knocked at S. Jean Vianney’s door with 40 brand new blankets from Macy’s. Two couples in the Heather Gardens building appeared at the door of Associates Mary Ellen Lawrence and Diane Dean with new quilted blankets from the neighborhood store. Others were as deeply generous with new and gently-used covers for those who call the streets their home.

The DRM said we could also help by adopting Christmas families. The CSJs’ response was quick and blessed. Headed by Associate Candidate Peg Connolly and Associate Diane Dean, two teams sprinkled with candidates, associates and sisters became the face of Santa and, of course, Jesus to our new families.

Our long-distance candidate, Nancy Siekfer, provided a monetary gift that was turned into food gift certificates. Toys, dolls, tools, clothing and gift certificates were wrapped with care by willing CSJ elves. A few members of each team visited the families and were welcomed with great hospitality. We were able to understand a little of their lives as they broke open their stories with us. When the picture of the family from Team 1 was posted, Candidate Jean Simmons called out, “Where did the extra girl come from?” Team 1 shared with us that actually two related familiar groups lived together and the second one had no elves to help them. Peg put out an email and soon the gifts were flowing in again. Sister Mary Kay Kottenstette and Peg were sledded up to share Christmas abundance again. In our reflection with each other about the outreach, we shared how gifted we felt as a result of our action.

Following in the spirit of abundance, we had the entrance ceremony for our five new candidate members on Dec. 21. Combined with the Christmas Novena, our CSJ charism led candidates and their mentors to share and affirm the desire to become associates. The unique palate of persons showed up in their statements about the call to be associates. Betty Langley said that the CSJs have been a part of her life since she was six years old. Little did she see this move coming, but the inspiration, the spirit of reconciliation and the humility of Joseph called her in.

Two of the new candidates have been immersed with the CSJ ministry for years as they taught at St. Francis de Sales school. Jennifer Dawson notes she began teaching as a
young person and felt right at home. She left a few times but always returned because she felt a void when she was away. She was honored when asked to become an associate by S. Eleanor O’Hearn. She hopes that she can keep alive the founding spirit of the CSJs.

S. Eleanor was also influential in the life of Jean Simmons. S. Eleanor announced her retirement and Jean felt like she would have to leave. She received instead an invitation to become an associate member. Jean looks forward to sharing life and community with associates in Denver. Filling out our palate of persons are the hues of Peg Connolly and Barb Fonda.

Peg comments:
The charism of the Congregation of St. Joseph as a gift of grace speaks to my heart. I am humbled to be welcomed so openly by women of our community. I see the sisters and associates as fearless women reaching out into the world to serve others.

And, Candidate Pat Fonda fills out a final stint as she relates that she is seeking community with spirit-filled, joyful women of prayer:
I am attracted to the CSJs because although I do not know them well, all I’ve met are wise women who live dynamic lives without fanfare or headlines. They embody the hidden but essential life of St. Joseph—and I would be honored to be a part of their life/charism/ministry. How blessed we are in Denver!

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