CSJ African-American Sisters Gather

African-American CSJs Gather

Back Row: Sisters Angela Faustina (Los Angeles), Gail Trippett (St. Louis), Sharon Howell (St. Paul). Front Row: Sisters Barbara Moore, Ingrid Honore-Lallande, Clementine Lynch.

By Sister Mary Flick

The August shooting of a young, unarmed African-American male by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., stirred the undying embers of racism in this country. In October, a group of Sisters of St. Joseph of African-American descent gathered at the Carondelet motherhouse. Their gathering had taken months to prepare. Yet their timing could not have been better.

“In light of the times occurring in our country and our world, it is timely for us to gather as women of color,” said Sister Barbara Moore (SL), convener of the conference. “The incidences that have happened in St. Louis are tragic. They are symptomatic of what has been going on in many communities for many years.”

This was the first time that a congregational gathering of this kind had ever been attempted. The African-American Sisters of St. Joseph from the Congregation met in St. Louis – all six of them – representing each of the four provinces. They came to pray, to share stories and to imagine the future. The gathering was made possible by a ministry assistance funding grant to advance the dialogue and engage in study among African-American women religious in the four provinces of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

The events in Ferguson and the congregational gathering have a common theme and something to say to all who work for unity and reconciliation.

“It can happen anywhere – Indianapolis, L.A., in Minnesota, too,” says Sharon Howell (SP), one of the six sisters who gathered. “The faith community is critically involved, and it is helping. But we need to be more vigilant, in a time marked by such disrespect for the person.”

“As Sisters of St. Joseph, we are called to love the Dear Neighbor without distinction – not to deny differences,” notes Sister Angela Faustina (LA). “We must acknowledge that everyone has human dignity, a human worth, and celebrate that diversity.”

It is an issue for CSJs, wherever they are, and did not begin last August.

“The Congregational Chapter of 2008 mandated that we address racism among ourselves so we can have an impact on the world in which we live,” said Sister Ingrid Honore-Lallande (LA). “We have to ask the question and have honest, open and painful conversations around the issue of racism – and acknowledge that racism exists among us. It is in every institution: banking, education, health care, the Church. How can we as CSJs say we are exempt from racism? We are not. We are the Church.”

And yet, the CSJ charism has something special to bring to the racial divisions that torment these times.

“We have a lot of power in our charism,” said Sister Gail Trippett (SL). “In my dream world, I see our community as mediums, facilitating the conversations. The news sensationalizes anger and division. No one is trying to facilitate unity, or trying to understand how we got to where we are now. We need to train our sisters, so that we can volunteer our services to mediate groups who otherwise would not come together for conversation. How do we use the charism we’ve been given to make a difference in the world? Let’s step into the situation and see what we can bring to it.”

This might be one way to be the change many want to see. And it is another step in the direction of the future.

“My hope is that the future of the Congregation will be different than it is,” said S. Ingrid. “I hope it will model to the world that women from different cultures can come together and live the life I see as a blessing.”

<< Back to News

Change Text Size   A|  A|  A