Check out a podcast that moves people beyond everyday assumptions of what it means to be Catholic hosted by two Catholic Sisters, Erin McDonald (Congregation of St. Joseph) and Colleen Gibson (SSJ Philadelphia). Both are deeply committed to having honest conversations, sharing information about their lives as sisters, and standing for social justice.
Beyond the Habit is now in season three. In the first episode Sisters Erin and Colleen interviewed Shannon K. Evans, the author of the books Feminist Prayers for My Daughter: Powerful Petitions for Every Stage of Her Life and Rewilding Motherhood: Your Path to an Empowered Feminine Spirituality. They talked about the prayers we don’t even realize we need as women, the weird and wonderful joy of finding the sacred in nature, and finding ways to pass on delight in God.
September 1st, 2023
May 2nd, 2023
Good morning good neighbors!
My name is Sharon Howell and I get to be one of the jubilarians this year and I am extremely excited and I want to start by saying that part of my remarks this morning about holding things in tension; and the first thing I want to say to you is, as you see me walking up here with a laptop, for anybody who is watching from the livestream they are roaring, anybody in this room who knows me, because I try to stay as far away from technology when something important is happening as possible but I have to hold intention the fact that I couldn’t get my act together enough well enough to print this thing out this week so got to try to make this work.
Opening in gratitude with dear Neighbors, I think my co-jubilarians will agree with me as Jill started out this morning that we are surrounded by forebears who brought us forward not necessarily just sister, inclusive of the people who brought us here; and we come here and gratitude, it is a community act to produce jubilarians. I just want to say amen and thank you for that and some of you in this room or your children knew me before I even began the Journey of trying to be a Sister of Saint Joseph so this has been something that’s been going on for a long time and I am grateful for the family support, the generational support. Speaking personally and I want to acknowledge that Father John was my first supervisor in a first real job after I became a sister of Saint Joseph.
I am grateful and it is good to be with you. Gratitude to the Liturgy committee and all for helping us get started today; to all who prepared and are making the sacrifice to make everything so lovely.
It is extremely important that we hold some things in tension and today we are celebrating the fourth Sunday in Lent and the feast of Saint Joseph and there’s not necessarily any one way of holding things in tension. As I reflected in our my preparation I want to share a few things with you and see what you think; first of all, I want to ask you if you’ve ever had the experience of encountering something or hearing of a new experience or hearing some news or something that brings tears to your eyes not enough for them to well over and start being emotional, but just they’re right there and yet at the same time you know ‘no we’re not crying, nope this is the truth and yes keep going’. Sometimes you have to make that decision in two seconds. So, I want to offer you as that as an image for holding some things in tension.
First of all let’s talk about Samuel having to go down to where Jesse and his family. Israel was real excited about having a king but I’m not sure that God was particularly excited about them having a king; but that that was so important to them that he let subsidiarity rule; and things Saul however was not working out too well; and so, he needed to try to find somebody else: I imagine that brought a few a tears to God’s eyes. I’m sure Samuel wasn’t real excited either, however, he went to Jesse and his sons. What when someone looks like or how they appear or what they say isn’t necessarily what calls for leadership and so God let Samuel know that the right person wasn’t there yet and make sure they get there; Samuel did that; and he said the party will not continue until this person, David, is there. That had to be really hard on the community to wait. David is the composer of our Psalm 23 today; he is said to have been under duress as he composed.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he tells the people that they are light that their encounter was Christ is causing them to be light and to act accordingly; and so is Samuel’s anointing of David. With their behavior he’s bringing things into Focus Guided by God’s work.
On this fourth Sunday we have an opportunity to reflect on John’s gospel now the man born blind in this gospel does not ask for anything he is there doing what he does; and Jesus and his disciples go into Jerusalem, they see him there they probably have seen him there before. Jesus is much more aware of his own light and he even says that ‘I am the light of life, and if I am living a light of light that a life of light’ then I need to be acting like it’. He’s been acting like it for several weeks now leading up to this, so he’s in major trouble walking in on this situation. Things are getting more intense in his ministry; to make that choice is wonderful for him to help the man; now can be more independent, his family can have less responsibility, but it also puts them all under scrutiny; they’re all under surveillance now not just Jesus, not just his disciples, the Pharisees want to know who are all these people defying the Sabbath law?
It turns out the blind man does see the wonders of what has happened for him, he holds his ground with his new gift; his parents recognize that this is important, and they stand behind him and they all in truth walk away from the Pharisees; this man truly does recognize that something holy something sacred something important has happened here and he wants to focus his light on the next steps.
I also like in this reading that the disciples asked Jesus what does this man do or what did his parents do that he is blind from birth and Jesus said. ‘he did they didn’t do anything’. Jesus was challenging how people come to be born and live with disability, all the creation of life in God.
Finally, I’m just going to add my additional reflection on Joseph as a man, guided by light, God fearing man, a dreamer of dreams. Joseph met deep losses with deepest care perhaps not immediately but day by day. Joseph lived with tension. He lived with the fact that his life was going to be quite different with his hometown sweetheart, Mary, than he literally ever dreamed would be the case; however, his love for her and for his own God, plus her God and the messenger angel made it possible for him to stand up and continue in the light to be the man God created him to be and to usher God’s light into the world in the person of their son, Jesus.
Meeting losses, meeting confusions, standing in the light facing truth; ‘gotta keep moving’, day by day may we continue to live in the light. Let the tears well in our eyes say thank you; and continue to do what we can do to be of service to others, and as we are called as we live in this large, inclusive community, we know how to usher in the profound love of God.
Happy Fourth Sunday in Lent; happy Feast of Saint Joseph, dear Neighbors! enjoy this day!
April 17th, 2023
I am speaking as a settler on this ʻaina or land of Oʻahu. I trace my own familyʻs roots to Germany and England. I acknowledge that this island is part of the larger territory recognized by Indigenous Hawaiians as their ancestral grandmother, Papahānaumoku.
I recognize that her majesty Queen Lili‘uokalani yielded the Hawaiian Kingdom and these territories under duress and protest to the United States to avoid the bloodshed of her people. I further recognize that Hawai‘i remains an illegally occupied state of America.
We gather this evening and afternoon, at tables or computers, around a marking of time. A span of ten years or more. Different than marking a space or an idea or a belief, though those are present to, what calls us together tonight is time. A shared decade or decades from when the vows or commitments to this community were uttered in tongue and heart. From what I understand Jubilees generally begin at an anniversary of 25 years. I recognize the generosity and celebratory nature of the CSJ community to begin the celebrations at 10 and 20 years.
A lot happens in 10 years and we have all shared the past 10 years by living through them.
Here are some reminders of headlines. In 2013, the federal government finally recognized gay marriage. George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of 17 year-old and unarmed Trayvon Martin. In 2014 the Ebola virus breakout in West Africa became a global health crises. The Ferguson riots erupted in Missouri. 2015 marked the Paris Climate Agreement, and Pope Francis released his Laudato Siʻ. Donald Trump was elected to the U.S. Presidency in 2016, and in 2017 women marched on Washington D.C. to protect womenʻs rights, many wearing pink pussy hats. 2018 brought the nomination and appointment of Justice Kavanaugh and the igniting of the #MeToo movement. In 2019 Greta Thunberg led the Global Climate Strike. In 2020 George Floyd was killed, a global pandemic erupted and Joe Biden was elected to the U.S. presidency. A U.S. Capitol insurrection marked the beginning of 2021. The Covid19 pandemic continued, and protests erupted in Minneapolis and around the country focused on police brutality and racism in relationship to the killing of George Floyd. Russian-Ukrainian relations became more strained in 2022, which finally became a war. At the beginning of this year, the war continues, the pandemic is easing and here we are today.
Amid these global and national events, our own lives and the lives of those closest to us unfolded. In the U.S., many of us learned how make masks and to wear them. We muddled through odd pandemic rules, like folding and reusing masks amid global shortages. We learned how to use Zoom or are still learning, which weirdly involves coming across your own face in conversation. We reconnected with dear ones across the world. Perhaps we felt and feel the loss of the proximity of people and the real sense of shared space, sharing the same air, hearing the same winter sounds, feeling the winter temperature, sharing the feel of snow or rain or sun on skin. We gather, together, but differently and distantly. Or perhaps we have always gathered this way.
And perhaps there have been more personal and significant markers of this decade—a transition between vocations, the loss of a loved one or dear members of this community, good health or health struggles, hospital visits or hospital stays, a broken heart, a new relationship, a new grandchild or cousin, personal challenges or the rest of an easier decade of life. Where has life carried you these ten years? Through what have you come? And how have you made it to this table or this computer on this night?
Life is not lived in decades. As the theme for this Jubilee reminds us, it unfolds in moments, in days, day by day. “Joseph met deep losses with deepest care. Perhaps, not immediately—but day by day.” Philosophers , poets, and mystics suggest that time folds back on itself. We enter infinity in each moment. In this moment returning to our past and living in our future.
I think of the many moments over this past decade, at times reeling from national or global news, when I have whispered to myself the charism of the CSJ community: love of God and neighbor without distinction. In wondering how to meet in a moment the person in front of me, I am reminded of the holy, this one made in the image of the sacred, born from star and light and sacred dark, held in the promise of a tradition, my tradition, our tradition, that death does not have the final word. Life rises. This spirit rises in each new moment, born of the past, and born again into the future.
And so I suggest this Jubilee not be a marker of a decade gone by, however celebratory the anniversary, but one of a new moment born from history and the future. Our charism renewed for this moment, rising anew in this moment, as it has risen to occasion in the past and will rise again in the future. Love of God. Love of neighbor. Day by day with deepest care.
April 17th, 2023
Let’s recall the words in the chant sung by Chris Ludwig:
Beginning with the first flaring forth of the original fireball 13.7 billion years ago to the awakening of homo sapiens, the wise ones, 40 thousand years ago there was continuity, evolution, and ongoing emergence of new forms of life. No matter how many wise ones awakened in the beginning, we all, all of us, had our beginnings in the first flaring forth. Our origins are the same. So, to say we are sisters and brothers is not just figurative language; it is literally true. Everyone you saw as you looked around, whether you know them or not, has the same origin story as you have. Everyone! What might we learn from this? That our common origins call us to respect one another and honor our diversity, as members of a family are called to do? That we are all more alike than different? That our charge and challenge of loving the Divine Creator and all neighbors without distinction grew among the wise ones as they began to relate to one another in new ways?
Let’s sit with these questions and move forward to the time when Holy Wisdom found a home to dwell among us 2000 years ago. Joseph, an upright man, took Mary into his home after listening to the angel who came to him in a dream. And Mary birthed a son whom Joseph named Jesus. Joseph must have seen his dream as a call from the Holy One in whom he believed to risk saying yes despite his doubt, despite his fear of what might be ahead. I cannot imagine that one visit by an angel relieved all of Joseph’s doubts and fears. But he was willing to take a risk, and, as reflected on the cover of your worship booklet, Joseph met deep losses with deepest care, perhaps not immediately, but day by day. What losses? Loss of certainty, loss of control, loss of confidence in Mary? Whatever they were, he met his losses with deepest care, perhaps not immediately, but day by day. What might we learn from this? What losses are we called to meet with deepest care?
370 years ago, six women in LePuy France rolled up their sleeves to serve the dear neighbor; 184 years ago, six women arrived in a new land where there were needs beyond what they might have imagined; and 172 years ago, four Sisters came upriver to St. Paul. What losses did these women endure? Loss of time they may have had for themselves, loss of privacy, loss of their familiar language and culture, loss of closeness to family and community, loss of predictability in daily life? We are here today because they met their losses with deepest care, perhaps not immediately, but day by day. What might we learn from this? What do we do when we experience loss?
That brings us to tonight when we celebrate the commitment of 21 Sister Jubilarians. Together they have lived 1,355 years as Sisters of St. Joseph. And we celebrate the commitment of 11 Consociate Jubilarians who have lived a total of 355 years as Consociates. We would not be here if those who have gone before us had not said yes, despite fears, despite hardships, despite lack of certainty, despite deep losses.
Like the first flaring forth and the call into mindfulness, like the angel’s call to Joseph, like the call heard by six women in LePuy, like the call from Bishop Rosati to the St. Joseph Sisters in France, like the call experienced by the four Sisters who came to St. Paul, like the call each one of us heard that prompted us to become Sisters or Consociates, like the call many of you have experienced to being married, partnered or single, all of these are calls from the Spirit. They are God-calls.
Tonight, all of us, each within the context of our own lives, Sisters, Consociates, Partners in Mission and Ministry, Staff, Agregee, St. Joseph Workers, Friends of St. Joseph, family and friends, all enlivened by a spirit-gift which we call the charism of unifying love, will ask the Holy One to inspire and enliven us as we work together for the healing of the world. We will pray that each step we take be life-giving for one another. So, I would say that this celebration is not really about those of us celebrating anniversaries. It is not about the past. We honor our past and learn from it. We are standing on the threshold of a future that is calling us to step forward, to take risks, to join hands, and with deepest love and care for one another, to embrace what is ahead of us. And we will do this as Joseph did – day by day.
So I leave with you this question: As I go about my day to day life, how will I embrace what is ahead with deepest love and care?
April 17th, 2023
Highland Catholic School and Lumen Christi Soup Luncheon
In October, the Food Access Hub team supported the Highland Catholic School Fall Soup Luncheon for senior parishioners at Lumen Christi Catholic Community. We cooked the butternut squash soup using ingredients from the school’s community garden and the Tacheny Farm, and served it to over 80 parishioners, faculty, and staff, as well as St. Kate’s community members through the Food Access Hub. Thank you to all the students, staff and parent volunteers who helped us bring this healing soup to the community!
End of Garden Season
With the advent of the first hard frost, we put the CSJ Community Garden and the Highland Catholic School Garden to bed for the winter. We’d like to express our deep gratitude to all those who lent their time, energy and spirit to the gardens this year, and especially to our Garden Coordinator Hani Abukar. Hani’s careful tending was instrumental to our abundant harvest, and we are blessed to have her gentle and faithful presence in our community. Hani will continue to work with the Food Access Hub through her leadership role in the Cross-Campus Food Access Coalition (CFAC).
Save the dates for the 2023 Garden Events!
November 1st, 2022
By Suzanne Herder, CSJ
My experience at the shelter in Mexicali, Mexico has changed my life. I am now looking at everything and everyone with different eyes. The experience was not anything I had expected! I thought there would be a building surrounded with a yard where the children could play and we would paint in small groups. Instead, we arrived at a crowded shelter with 215 immigrants—110 adults and 105 children. The shelter is on a busy street where it is not safe for the residents to go outside. There’s no outside play area or equipment, just concrete floors. There are cement rooms surrounding the courtyard where three families share a room. More people sleep in the courtyard. There’s not much to do all day.
The people we met were gracious and anxious to share their stories. The stories broke our hearts. I was there to teach watercolor classes. One 12 year old boy who knew English and knew how to paint offered to help me. He was afraid to share his real name. His mother, Olga, told me that his father was shot in their home in Mexico in front of the family. With the father dead, mom and her three children were told to get out of their home country, or they would be killed too.
I went to the border for the nonprofit “Border Compassion” founded by Sister Suzanne Jabro, CSJ. Its purpose is to help accompany families seeking asylum in the USA. The shelter is a place to wait until they are called for a hearing. Sometimes it takes a year for a family to cross over if they have a sponsor. The wait is longer for those without sponsors. Many are fleeing violence and have family members who have been killed. They are running for their lives with their little children.
Entering the shelter, I saw children and people everywhere! I soon realized the lessons I had planned would have to change! Twenty-five children from ages 2 to 10 years old rushed to the tables to paint before I even set up! With an interpreter we announced that “babies” had to have their mother or father with them. I showed the painting we were going to do, a make-believe bird, then I took them through the painting step by step and they followed directions. Everyone wanted to hear “Bueno” when they showed me their pictures. After the lesson they could paint whatever they wanted. Some painted houses. Others painted hearts. A boy wanted to paint a tiger so that night I had to learn how to paint a tiger!
I taught three groups the first day with one special session just for women. Some of the children wanted to continue painting so they found a place on the floor to paint when their group was finished. I told them we would be back the next day.
When we appeared the next day, we received many hugs before the children ran to the table to get a place to paint, again before I set up. Everyone that wanted to paint got a chance during the morning. It was a joyous atmosphere and very difficult to leave.
It will take time to process everything I saw and experienced. Because the painting was such a success I want to go back in June. I know we want to help the people in need in our own area but this is a need too. Can we do both?
If you want to donate here are some ideas: soft dolls, small cars or trucks, coloring books, crayons, pans of watercolor paints and brushes, inexpensive watercolor paper, adult coloring books, colored pencils, supplies for making jewelry or any other craft items or money for art supplies. If you want to donate, please email Suzanne Herder, CSJ, firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 24th, 2022
St. Paul, Minnesota
October 16, 2022
Sister Mary Madonna Ashton, CSJ, of St. Paul, Minnesota, had a long and impressive Minnesota-based career in public service and the private sector. She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ), St. Paul Province in 1946 as she began her career in medical social work (then a new field) at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul, MN. After moving to St. Mary’s Hospital in Minneapolis, MN, where she spent more than two decades, she transitioned into administration, ultimately serving as president and CEO.
Shortly after resigning her CEO position, MN Gov Rudy Perpich asked her to serve as the state’s Commissioner of Health. During an eight-year term, 1983-1991, she addressed public health by taking on the tobacco industry which led to the banning of smoking in public spaces. She also addressed the emerging HIV/AIDS epidemic.
After her term as Commissioner ended, she became CEO of Carondelet LifeCare Corporation and in 1992, impelled by her strong sense of justice and compassion, founded St. Mary’s Health Clinics (SMHC) to serve the uninsured and those ineligible for government programs. Today, the often recognized SMHC includes seven Twin Cities clinics with 150 volunteer physicians, nurses and support personnel who have, this year alone, served over 15,000 people through its clinics and outreach services. She retired from her CEO position in 1999.
She continued volunteering and serving on various committees and in 2011 was asked by then Archbishop John Nienstedt to be the Delegate for Religious for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. She served in that position until 2014 when, at age 91, she retired.
Among her many honors and awards, the Women’s History Project named her a 2016 National Women’s History Month Honoree joining the ranks of such luminaries as Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Dorothy Day, Emily Dickinson, Coretta Scott King, and Eleanor Roosevelt. March 8, 2016, was declared Sister Ashton Day by then Governor Mark Dayton and Sister Mary Madonna Ashton Day by then St. Paul mayor Christopher B. Coleman.
Sister Mary Madonna Ashton held a BA from the College of St. Catherine in Sociology, an MHA from the University of Minnesota in Hospital Administration, an MSSW from St. Louis University in Medical Social Work and Honorary doctorates from St. Catherine and Hamline Universities.
Sister Mary Madonna was a tireless and tenacious advocate for those in need and will be missed by her Sisters of St. Joseph and Consociate Community, family, friends, and colleagues who loved and respected her.
Zoom Gathering to Remember Mary Madonna Ashton, CSJ
Wednesday, November 9, 6:30 p.m. Central Time
Join Zoom Meeting: https://tinyurl.com/CSJRituals
ID: 651 696 2805 Passcode: 651696
Funeral Celebration for Mary Madonna Ashton, CSJ
Friday, November 18 at 11 a.m. Central Time
Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel
Live Steam: https://www.youtube.com/user/CSJStPaul
Click red “Live Now” button
For information contact: Ann L. Thompson, email@example.com, 651-592-3900
October 19th, 2022
Sister Mary Madonna Ashton, CSJ, ’44 passed away Sunday, October 16 at Carondelet Village in St. Paul. She was 99 years old.
A convert to Catholicism while in college, Mary Madonna majored in sociology and psychology and graduated from what was then the College of St. Catherine in 1944. She went on to study for her Masters of Social Work from St. Louis University, then became a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet and began her career in medical social work (then a new field) at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul. After obtaining a Master of Hospital Administration from the University of Minnesota, she moved into administration at St. Mary’s Hospital in Minneapolis where she ultimately served as president and CEO for 20 years.
October 19th, 2022
Over the course of this semester, over 120 St. Kate’s students volunteered in the St. Kate’s/CSJ Food Access Hub (FAH) through a partnership with St. Kate’s Office of Community Work and Learning (CWL). The students—mostly first-years—came from six different The Reflective Woman classes and worked with FAH for the community-engaged learning portion of their course. They came with willing hands and hearts to help with food shelf days, delivery days, and in the Community Garden. The FAH team is grateful to the faculty, students, and CWL staff who engaged with us this semester. We look forward to continuing this partnership and strengthening the connections between the CSJ community and the University next semester!
Below are some stats that show the successes from this partnerships. Overall, the St. Kate’s/CSJ Food Access Hub saw an increase in clients in September. Below are some statistics from the first month of the school year:
Thank you to all involved with the Food Access Hub for this great work!
October 3rd, 2022