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A Brief History of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill

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Colleen Gibson

on 31 July 2016

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Transcript of A Brief History of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill

In this vein, the sisters sought to be hidden and humble in all that they did. Not bad for Not bad literally "do good" The Sisters of Saint Joseph were founded in 1650 in look familiar? It was in
Le Puy,
in the south
central valley
of France,
that the Sisters of Saint Joseph
would come into being... starting with just 6 regular women, a Jesuit priest, & a vision. His name was Jean Pierre Medaille and he didn't look like this but more like this. Bonjour!- Le Puy, France Building a City of Sisterly Love The Story of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia As he traveled, Father Medaille attracted young people, who wanted to live out the message of the Gospel he was teaching... He began his religious life as a teacher but soon became known as a preacher, traveling throughout France spreading the Gospel... That's where those first 6 women come into play Except... They didn't
look like
this yet They were just
everyday women who wanted to: Part I: The
French
Connection live their faith & serve but didn't have the money to pay the dowry necessary for them to enter a monastery Father Medaille was all about making their desire to serve a reality Father Medaille was all about making their desire to serve a reality He gathered together women from various
towns throughout southern France... Into what he called the "Little Design" "Little Design" The Little Design started out small remember them? But in time it grew... and grew... grew... and By 1729, the Sisters of Saint Joseph were in nearly every diocese in France. following Jean Pierre Medaille's original "Little Design" 6 regular women, a Jesuit priest, & a vision. 6 regular women, a Jesuit priest, & a vision. The Little Design was based on the mystery of the Eucharist Jesus completely hidden in the Eucharist yet completely present. With over 150 houses of sisters throughout southern France. All All Giving glory to God through their
selfless service. In this vein, the sisters sought to be hidden and humble in all that they did. To do so, and to be
of greatest service to
their dear neighbors,
the Sisters dressed
in the simple dress
of widows. This allowed them to be
out in public without a spouse & to serve freely. It's also where that snazzy habit came from. It's also where that snazzy habit came from. So... Father Medaille had a plan... A vision of women serving the church Living their love of God and of neighbor in a way that was pretty new to society. a design if you will... little These 6 women began it all... Francois Eyraud Anna Vey Anna Brun Marguerite Burdier Anna Chaleyer Clauda Chastel And while they may all
look the same here... They were all very different. An orphan A hospital director A war widow A 46-year old woman & two girls in their teens. It was a humble beginning, for sure. Of the six, only one was literate enough to
sign her name at entrance into the group. And so, in 1807, Mother Saint John
Fontbonne Part II: Revolutionizing Religious Life their their As the congregation grew,
it attracted more & more women to its ranks. Yet, as the 18th century continued,
turmoil began to break out in France... French society was becoming more and more divided; & The rich were getting richer the poor were getting poorer. Famine plagued the country... mercenaries looted homes & ransacked travelers... and unrest with the monarchy began to mount among the people. Soon the country was in the midst
of the French Revolution... So like we said... As the government was overthrown,
a reign of terror took hold of France. Everything that was associated with the monarchy became viewed as tyranny... including the Catholic Church. As the Revolution took full effect, the new government required priests to make an oath of allegiance to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. That is to say: the government was trying to separate the French Church from Rome. i.e. It was trying to make sure that the Church in France was under government control & would fall in line with the age of reason
ushered in by the Revolution. The Church in France became divided... Some priests took oaths of loyalty to the government... and gained much favor in the new government as a result. But many other priests refused to take the oath,choosing instead to go into exile. In time, these priests were hunted down by the government... Their lives were in great danger. They hid throughout the country... Facing time in jail and even death for disloyalty But it wasn't just priests who were in danger... But it wasn't just priests who were in danger... On August 18, 1792, the government suppressed those communities of women religious who were serving the poor... including the Sisters of Saint Joseph. The community of sisters was disbanded They tried to continue their work teaching, caring for orphans, running hospitals, caring for those most in need. & but to no avail. If the sisters wouldn't take the same patriotic oath as France's priests, the government wouldn't let them serve. The Sisters refused to deny their faith by taking the oath. And so, the government confiscated
their convents & all the sisters' goods... some went home to their families... others found refuge
among sympathetic Catholics... The fire of their
love of God & neighbor
couldn't be extinguished though... In time, 5 Sisters of Saint Joseph would be beheaded and many more would be imprisoned. In time, 5 Sisters of Saint Joseph would be beheaded and many more would be imprisoned. the Sisters had no choice
but to disband & disperse... Times were bleak. The Sisters of St. Joseph had survived and thrived for nearly 150 years... But the French Revolution had left the congregation in shambles. There was no reason to think they would rise
from the ashes of the Revolution There was no reason to think they would rise
from the ashes of the Revolution In 1794, two years after the initial suppression of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Mother Saint John Fontbonne, superior of the community, was arrested and scheduled to be beheaded. Like we said, times were bleak. times were bleak. As Mother Saint John prepared for her execution, she surrendered all to God's will, readying herself for martyrdom. July 28, 1794:
She is scheduled to die. July 27, 1794:
Robespierre, a key leader of
the Revolution, was arrested and
beheaded the next day. The fall of Robespierre brings
an end to the reign of terror and spares
Mother Saint John Fontbonne's life. Instead, Mother St. John was set free from prison. Mother Saint John Fontbonne's execution was scheduled for July 28, 1794. Mother Saint John Fontbonne's execution was scheduled for July 28, 1794. Fast Forward nearly 150 years... from the foundation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1650 to the eve of the French Revolution in 1790... Any sisters that held on to their desire to live their faith and serve were considered renegades by the government... which sought to suppress them in any way necessary. Mother Saint John Fontbonne would go on to re-found the Congregation, but with the Revolution still in full swing, she went from prison to her parents' house. Like we said, times were bleak. but a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do. restarted it all. At the request of Cardinal Joseph Fesch in Lyons,
Fontbonne took charge of a group of 12 women, called the "Black Daughters"... She instilled in them the original spirit of the Congregation. Holding firm to Father Medaille's original vision Responding to every opportunity to serve God & the dear neighbor. Mother Saint John didn't let anything get in her way... They ministered to all people, founding hospitals, schools and orphanages. the
Little Design. not fear for finances... $ $ $ $ $ $ nor bickering bishops... nor undue concern
about the future... She trusted that God would provide & that the Holy Spirit would guide the congregation... This allowed her to be a visionary leader
& an example of great faith to her fellow sisters. By the time she died in 1843,
the Sisters of Saint Joseph
numbered over 3,000 members... A tribute not only to her leadership, but to a vision of religious life that simply could not be contained. Part III: From France to Philadelphia ! ! ! ! ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Part of Mother St. John's vision for the
Sisters of Saint Joseph was an openness
to the needs of the world around her. When a request came for Bishop Rosati of
Saint Louis in 1836, the Sisters' vision
would expand to the New World of America. After nearly two centuries of growth in France, the Sisters of Saint Joseph set out to bring their spiritual heritage, apostolic zeal, and dedicated service to America. On January 4, 1836, Mother Saint John Fontbonne watched as six sisters set sail for Saint Louis... including two of
her own nieces. Nearly 3 months later, they arrived in Saint Louis, establishing
their Motherhouse in the neighboring village of Carondelet. Soon they would open a school for Black girls, slave & free,
one of the first of its kind in the United States. Here the sisters were plunged into frontier life and
set out to work among those most in poverty and need... As well as a school for the deaf, staffed by the sisters. Within 10 years of their arrival in the New World,
the Sisters' reputation of zealous and compassionate service and faith spread throughout the country... soon they were called upon to work in other areas... First and foremost was an invitation to come to Philadelphia. Philadelphia. Philadelphia. On May 4,1847,
a group of 4 sisters
arrived in Philadelphia. at the corner of 13th & Chestnut to be exact... where they took charge of St. John's Orphanage for Boys. Leading the group was Sister St. John Fournier. Originally from France, Fournier came to America to teach at the Sisters' school for the deaf in St. Louis & dreamt of working with and evangelizing the Native Americans. Before she could realize that dream though, she was sent to Philadelphia... where she would become the group's first Superior. That's right...

Another Mother Saint John. Nice name! Jinx! Under Mother St. John Fournier's leadership,
the Philadelphia congregation flourished. Attracting new members... Opening St. Joseph's Hospital... Creating a home for widows... & opening their first (of many) elementary schools. And that was all only
in their first 3 years in Philly. Such generosity & dedication earned them the accolade: "Sisters ready for any good work" In need of a physical Motherhouse,
the Sisters moved from center city
Philadelphia to McSherrystown
in 1854... In need of a physical Motherhouse,
the Sisters moved from center city
Philadelphia to McSherrystown
in 1854... But within 4 years, the Motherhouse
was transferred to Chestnut Hill,
because of its proximity to the
Sisters' growing urban missions
in Philadelphia. But within 4 years, the Motherhouse
was transferred to Chestnut Hill,
because of its proximity to the
Sisters' growing urban missions
in Philadelphia. Once settled in Chestnut Hill,
the Sisters of Saint Joseph expanded their
ministry to people in Philadelphia and beyond. By the time of Mother St. John Fournier's death
in 1875, the Congregation was serving up and down the East Coast... the Congregation had grown from the 4 original members to 200 members... By the turn of the century,
the Congregation would have over 600 members. Growth continued through the 1960's,
when the Congregation numbered 2,700 sisters. In the intervening time,
the Sisters proved they were
"ready for any good work"... serving as educators at every level,
setting standards in education,
making scientific advances,
nursing Civil War soldiers,
quelling the yellow fever pandemic,
and much, much more. What began with 6 women,
a Jesuit priest, and a vision
in Le Puy, France... Developed into a vision
that defied a Revolution... And traveled around the world... Seeking to serve the dear neighbor
through the Great Love of God... le fin. Today, Sisters of Saint Joseph serve as witnesses to Jesus' mission: The Sisters' primary ministry for years would be education, but their love knew no bounds... Living and working so that all may be one. Living and working so that all may be one. And ultimately... for one & for all. You owe me a Coke. Copyright 2013 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.
All rights reserved.

"Building a City of Sisterly Love" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill. Building a City of Sisterly Love
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