My sister Dottie is a Sister of St. Joseph, an order of nuns that originated in LePuy, France in the 17th century. She sent me these beautiful photos of Ramona, one of the sisters, making lace.
The Sisters of Saint Joseph were among the first Catholic communities to be founded for the ordinary woman. They were not wealthy or educated and worked to support themselves especially by making lace, a common trade in that region of France. Today, those who are attracted to this still live among the people and offer their lives in love and service. We carry on the heritage of our founders, six French women who joined a Jesuit priest in 1650 to begin a community without cloister or habit and devoted to the needs of the ordinary people. They shared a profound desire for union with God and the “dear neighbor”.
The community grew. In 1650, it was formally recognized as a religious congregation by the Bishop of LePuy. By the time of the French Revolution, it had spread through south central France in the region of the Valey. Then, caught in the political turmoil of the times, the congregation was disbanded. Some of the Sisters were martyred at the guillotine and others returned to their homes or went into hiding. After the revolution had ended, a heroic woman, Jeanne Fontbonne, who had narrowly escaped the guillotine herself, refounded the Sisters of St. Joseph at Lyon, France. She was known in the congregation as Mother St. John. Before long, the sisters were numerous again. In 1836, a request came from the Bishop of St. Louis, Missouri for Sisters to teach deaf children. He had been advised by a friend in France to “…get the Sisters of St. Joseph because they will do anything”. Three sisters crossed the ocean and came to a log cabin in Carondelet, Missouri to found a school for deaf students. From there, they spread across the United States beginning new foundations and now are members of the organization known as The United States Federation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
When I was still a kitten living in Kansas I would visit Dottie at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia.
I have fond memories of cavorting about the countryside on bicycles and sliding down snowy hills on pink trays from the cafeteria. I also seem to recall Dottie relocating lifesize statues of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph adorned in bra and underpants about her and the other young nun’s living quarters – behind doors, tucked in beds. You know. Just the usual places one expects to find Jesus, Mary, or Joseph.
Having a Moss girl join the convent could be compared to letting a bull in a china shop. Sure a few things might get broken, but imagine the fun along the way!
She also sent me these cool photos of old scrapbooks from the archives.
Next time I get out to Kansas I must lock myself in the archives with a bunch of life-size statues standing guard. Maybe I can find an old habit to slip into while I pore over old scrapbooks and journals.
Wait. Did they make habits back then in size 2X?
Note to self: check.