Mission and Ministry Presentation at Village at Nazareth

By Sister Donna Gunn

Presentation shares CSJ mission and charism with lay residents at the Village at Nazareth Living Center, St. Louis. 

The Nazareth Living Center campus has certainly experienced a lot of changes of late. The sisters’ moving from Gleason Hall touched all of us and, in retrospect, demanded more of everyone involved in the process than we could have imagined. To all involved we say thank you. Thank you for your generosity, your courage, your example--you!

Construction (and destruction) continue on Nazareth Lane, and so does life. While the sisters are becoming more comfortable in their homes, the Village at Nazareth has accepted 70 new residents. These wonderful lay folks seem to be settling in and the community spirit which has always been such a vibrant part of Village I is conspicuously spreading to Village II as the new and old mingle over meals and activities, hardships and good news.

To many of us here, the Village doesn’t just offer housing and independent living; it is a wonderful example of a true Christian community where our CSJ charism is alive and well. Though it’s far from perfect, we do appreciate that in the midst of the world’s turmoil, this Nazareth campus is an oasis of Gospel values.

In the context of being community, our manager, Steve Woodruff, invited the Sisters of St. Joseph living at the Village to give a presentation about the history, mission and ministries of the Sisters of St. Joseph. “I think if you’re going to live side by side, everyone here should know who you are,” he said.

A committee was formed to outline a way for the sisters to tell our story. Mother St. John [Sister Donna] came to talk about our history and to point out that we are one of the few religious congregations to have lasted as long as we have. She talked about how proud we are to be among the first apostolic communities. She pointed out that the habit, which had been oohed and aahed at when she walked in, was in fact simply the dress of the widows of the day as Jean Pierre suggested we go out “in secret” to serve the dear neighbor from whom we do not separate ourselves.

After Mother’s presentation, individual sisters read a description of the many, many ministries we Sisters of St. Joseph have been involved in over the years. The panels in the Carondelet Motherhouse Heritage Room served as a sample of how the script could be laid out. Each sister’s paragraph was put on a large poster board for display in the lobby during the week. At the end of the session, the sisters and our one associate living at the Village came forward and blessed the laity with Sancte Joseph.

As each sister stood to speak about our work in education, child care, health care, social services, lay formation, etc. etc. from our past and into the present, the laity at the Village came to know better who we are as a congregation and what Sisters of St. Joseph have offered the church in our long history in America. But we dare to say that was not the most important result.

What happened in that process was that each sister came away “bursting at the seams.” In that hour’s presentation, we reminded ourselves of the shoulders we stand on and the wonderful women we rub shoulders with every day. In the end, we sisters thanked Steve for the opportunity to tell our story. We thank God for the privilege of being called to this congregation.

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