I just returned home from the Sisters of St. Joseph (United States) Federation event in Orlando, FL, which we have every 5 years or so. To say these events are amazing is an understatement! I have been to two of them now in my short time in formation and both have been life-giving and life changing.
The Federation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph is a dynamic union of all the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the United States who claim a common origin in the foundation at Le Puy, France in 1650. There are 16 Congregations throughout the United States with approximately 4,465 sisters, 2,919 associates and 26 agrégées. The Federation was created exactly 50 years ago and am I so happy that it was! I like to equate the way the Federation works to the United Nations (U.N.). Each of the 16 Congregations, have their own leaderships, Constitutions, policies, members, etc. or basically everything that makes them a canonical community, just like each of the 193 nations, according the U.N., around the world have their own leaderships, constitutions, laws, peoples, and policies that define them as a country. While the U. N. allows greater collaboration and support for leaders and countries around the world, the CSSJ Federation allows us to have greater collaboration and support around the nation as we live out our charism of unifying love. You can find out more about the Federation at http://www.sistersofsaintjosephfederation.org/.
There are many reasons to have a Federation, but for right now it is suffice to say in this day and age no one person, or Congregation, or even Federation can do it alone. In fact, one of the main lessons from the event last week was that separation is an illusion. There are many take-aways or lessons from the event I and my fellow sisters who write for this blog will share over the coming weeks/months so stay tuned.
Today, I am moved to share how important it is for newer members in Religious Life to connect with one another and form deep friendships and/or connections. I consider it as vital and necessary! This reach for connections I am talking about even goes beyond our own Congregations and Federations, and goes into Inter-Community space. There is a national inter-communal group of newer/younger members I am a part of, called Giving Voice. Find out more about the group here: https://www.giving-voice.org/. However, the starting place is your own Congregation, as you get steeped in your communal history and form deep connections. At the event I was able to spend time with newer members across the Federation and it is always powerful and life-giving when we spend time together. Our group picture is featured. When I get together with them, or with my inter-communal peers through Giving Voice, it gives me great hope and also gives me strength to keep moving forward.
It is no secret that within 10 years the demographics of Religious Life are going to drastically change which in one sense means that some of the structures as we now know them will change too. So why is it so important to form deep connections across your Congregation, Federation, and even across Inter-Community borders?
A. We are co-creating our future together. I, nor anyone, would want to do that if I did not have strong bonds and relationships with the people I am supposed to be creating a future with.
B. Strong bonds are formed when people are ‘in the same boat’ so to speak. My fellow newer members get it. We have a level of understanding where no translation is needed! This makes our bonding easier and strengthens it too. While I have friendships across the board, with married couples and single people, nothing is quite like my friendships with my sisters, which includes my Sister of St. Joseph family and Giving Voice.
C. On an individual level, having deep friendships helps us to reach our full potentials. The love shared in these relationships affect who we are as a person and in most cases has helped us become who we are.
The list could go on and on about why deep connections and friendships are important. I invite you to reflect and add to this list too. Please share them in the comments if you feel so moved. As I sign off today, I encourage you to keep growing and deepening your relationships. It is essential and critical for survival!
~Sister Clare, CSJ