Seven congregations of Sisters of St Joseph whose Catholic sisters and their lay associates total nearly 1,400 met at Chicago's Marriott O'Hare this week to establish an entirely new congregation. One of the founding congregations is the Sisters of St Joseph of LaGrange. In all, nearly 450 members will attend. The new congregation will be called the Congregation of St Joseph. The Sisters' opening ritual on Tuesday evening began with reading a proclamation from the Vatican approving the new congregation's creation. Rome officially granted its approval on 19 March, the feast of St Joseph. The meeting was groundbreaking chapter for the new congregation. During the meeting the sisters and associates set out their direction for the next six years and elect its first leadership team. Founders of the new congregation are seven formerly independent congregations: the Sisters of St Joseph of Cleveland, Ohio; LaGrange, Illinois; Nazareth, Michigan; Medaille (Cincinnati); Tipton, Indiana; Wheeling, West Virginia; and Wichita, Kansas. Each has been established in the US for more than 100 years. Together they include 858 sisters who have professed final vows, 11 women in formation to become professed members, and 511 lay men and women associates. "Although we were independent," explained Sister Marianne Race, CSJ, president of the Sisters of St Joseph of LaGrange, "we all trace our roots back to the first Sisters of St Joseph established in Le Puy, France in 1650. And we are all dedicated to the same mission from Le Puy: to work for unity and reconciliation among all people and unity and reconciliation of all people with God. Today, we think of that in terms of being inclusive of all of God's people and reverencing all cultures and religions," she said. According to Sister Marianne, the decision process was significant in engaging all members of the seven communities. "Over the past four years, we have had hundreds of discussions and dozens of intercommunity meetings, focus groups and other events so that all of the members of our communities could interact, contribute ideas and express various perspectives." All seven congregations voted in favour of a new congregation to ensure the future vitality of their mission by focusing their knowledge, talents, experience and other resources on their shared mission of unity and reconciliation. In their discussions, the sisters identified seven shared values that will be the foundation of the new congregation's work as its members seek to live the Gospel in today's world. Those values are attentiveness to the Spirit, faithfulness to prayer and contemplation, reverencing unity and diversity, furthering social and ecological justice, developing right relationships, harmony with all creation, and embracing the future. "The future direction this chapter discerns this week will be an expression of where and to what we believe our congregation is being called at this moment in history," Sister Marianne said. "Today, in our 21st century world, our mission has global implications," she added. "We need to be united in support for all of our brothers and sisters here and around the world, especially those who are suffering any kind of hunger, disease, persecution or injustice." The seven founding groups bring to the new congregation sponsored ministries in the areas of health care; insurance; housing and services for the elderly; education; transitional housing; domestic violence; counselling; peace and justice ministries; ministry against the death penalty; parish ministries; adoption services; social services programs; a printing company for nonprofits; religious music and arts education; and conference and retreat centres. Source: Congregation of St Joseph
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