Federation Novices Experience Living History
In 1836, six young and courageous Sisters of St. Joseph crossed the sea from France, making Carondelet, Mo. and Cahokia, Ill. their home for mission.
At the turn of the new year, six young and courageous novices crossed the highways and byways traveling to St. Louis from the Federation Novitiate in Chicago to experience the birthplace of the Sisters of St. Joseph of in America.
The novices and directors were welcomed at the St. Louis province motherhouse in Carondelet, which sits upon the same land aside the Mississippi where the early sisters made residence in a log cabin. During their stay, they had a guided tour, learning about the history that is held within its walls.
Sister Alison McCrary says, “Staying at the Carondelet motherhouse was a profound experience, a way of feeling more connected to those whose shoulders we stand on. This is living history.”
The novices embarked on a historic journey to Cahokia, Illinois, one of the sisters’ first missions. They experienced Mass at the “Old Cathedral” in downtown St. Louis, the site of the early sisters’ first stop in America.
“As I visit St. Louis and see the Mississippi River I can feel the spirit of the first sisters, the roads they walked, the sunsets they watched, the trees they saw.” says Carmen Rojas, a novice from Canada who was able to join the Chicago group for this St. Louis adventure. “I was moved to tears.”
Novitiate Director Bernadette Dean was moved, particularly by the novices’ reactions. “I was delighted to experience St. Louis through the eyes of the novices, actually being in St. Louis standing where our sisters stood.”
Although Sister Clare Bass resides in St. Louis for her formation process, this “history road trip” has brought her an even greater appreciation of the CSSJ heritage. “Everything I learn about our history is with me in great reverence,” says Sister Clare Bass.
They novices witnessed how the story of the mission is alive today by connecting with the St. Louis sisters, hearing about their experiences and visiting their ministries. Sister Mary Flick, who calls St. Louis home, expressed her pride in sharing the CSSJ community’s contributions to the dear neighbor literally, serving the needs of the area through the Carondelet Community Betterment Federation.
“I continue to be inspired not only by our remarkable past but by the women today who give of themselves tirelessly to one another and to those outside our doors,” Sister Mary says. “This trip has made me all the more proud of my sisters and our story at Carondelet.”
The novices had the opportunity to listen to Sister Roseanne Siebert from St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf who shared her story about the history of the sisters’ earliest ministry in deaf education that continues today. They were also inspired by Sister Barbara Moore’s sharing around her role in the civil rights movement as an African American sister who marched on Selma. “Sister Barbara has the power to ignite the flame for love, justice and equality in our generation,” says Sister Alison. “It was an honor to be with her.”
Yet this experience of history is not only about the past for the novices, but served as a spark for the future. Sister Kelly Smock says, “I hope to carry with me the vision and zeal that our first sisters had for loving and serving the dear neighbor.”
For Anne Davis, novitiate director, the spirit of the first sisters was tangible. “Our first six sisters were willing to respond to God’s call with their whole hearts and entire life, leaving all that was familiar. Today, the invitation continues…this may mean ‘crossing oceans’ in many ways.”
Sister Heather Ganz reflects, “It has been an incredible experience to be in a place filled with our rich history and to recognize the beautiful ways our story is continuing.”