Sisters of St. Joseph celebrate as three new Sisters take vows

June 15, 2017 by  

On Saturday, June 10, three women professed vows at a special Profession Mass at 10:30 a.m. in a crowded Sacred Heart Chapel at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia.
Sister Dian Hall of Cartersville, Ga., professed her final vows as a canonical Sister of St. Joseph, while D.J. Rak, of Junction City, Kan., and Mary Jo Sullivan, of Norman, Okla., professed their vows as agrégée sisters. The theme of the Eucharistic Celebration of Profession was “Summoned to Love.”

The mass was presided over by Father Juan Anzora, of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, in Cartersville, Ga., and Deacon Ed Souza, of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Junction City, Kan.

Sister Dian Hall

Sister Dian Hall was born and raised in Cedartown, Ga., and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of West Georgia. By the early 1990s she was teaching in a migrant education program in Cartersville, Ga.

Sister Dian Hall

It was during that time that she stepped in to help raise one of her teenage students when the girl’s parents were killed. When Juana — now 34 — was in her 20s, she and Hall decided they wanted to “formalize” the family feeling they had had for years, so Hall adopted her. Juana is now a married mother of three sons, and lives in Cartersville.

That’s where Hall was living and working in 1994, when she met three Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia who live in the Greater Atlanta area. That began a “conversation” with sisters that continued until November 2009 when Hall came to Concordia and was received as a candidate for agrégée membership. She spent two and a half years studying and praying with her mentors in Georgia — Sisters Jodi Creten and Helen Mick — before realizing that she was being called to canonical membership. She became a canonical novice in June 2012, and professed her first vows during a special ceremony at the Motherhouse on June 7, 2014. She returned to Georgia to continue in the work she did before coming to Concordia, as a special education inclusion teacher for the Cartersville schools.

Father Juan Anzora from her parish made a special trip to preside over her vows.

“God’s continued faithfulness leads me to this time, this place and this commitment. Your prayers, your love and your constant support, my family, friends, and Sisters bring me joy and much happiness,” Sister Dian Hall said. “My gratitude is overflowing to each and every one of you. Thank you for walking on this amazing journey beside me.”

Sister D.J. Rak

Sister D.J. Rak

Sister D.J. Rak is a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Junction City, Kan., where she is president of the St. Mary’s Cemetery Association. She is a retired Army Nurse and Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner. She has spent 10 years working as a contractor at Fort Riley as part of the Global War on Terrorism.

While she was very active in her church, she read an article about agrégée sisters in her diocesan newspaper. “I felt like I think this much about religion life, I need to check this out,” she said. “I called Sister Mary Lou Roberts.”

That phone call turned into a two-hour meeting for lunch until the place closed down, followed by two more hours of discussion at her house, followed by attending her first assembly. A total hip replacement in November of 2014 caused her to miss her first classes toward her vows, but Sister Jean Befort worked with her to get her caught up.

“I am so rich in treasure to have you all in my life. You have blessed me with your prayers and support throughout my journey to the profession of my vow,” Sister D.J. Rak said. “Thank you for being my faithful friends and also my true family.”

Deacon Ed Souza, of St. Francis Xavier Parish, traveled to Concordia to preside over her vows.

Sister D.J. Rak’s current plans are to stay in Junction City where she ministers to the homebound and those in nursing homes in Junction City and sometimes Wakefield. She has goals of starting a small parish nursing group.

Sister Mary Jo Sullivan

Sister Mary Jo Sullivan

Sister Mary Jo Sullivan, of Norman, Okla., is originally from Herington, Kan. One of her earliest impressions of the sisters is of being 4 years old and seeing Sister Noella “killing a giant bullsnake that was going to eat me.”

“I was 4, and I snuck to the park. My brother was in parochial school,” she said. “There was a snake in the grass and Sister Noella grabbed a bat and saved me.”

While she said she always felt an undeniable pull to religious life, “life just happened.” But, “As long as I can remember, all roads pulled me back to Concordia,” she said.

She recalls Sister Marcia Allen finally asking her, “Is it time to stop resisting?”

“So, Sister Marcia Allen asked the right question,” Sullivan said. “It’s been an amazing journey and I’m very grateful.”

Sister Sullivan said she looks forward to carrying the charism of the Sisters forward into her working ministry. “It allows me to add vocabulary and have support.”

“The gratitude that I feel today is overwhelming, as each of you, in your own way, has walked this path with me,” she said. “Thank you to my friends and family for your encouragement and to each of the members of this congregation for your spirit, your enthusiasm and your example. May love and laughter light your days.”

 “Canonically vowed sisters” profess the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, as defined by canon — or Church — law. As part of the vow of poverty, an individual sister relinquishes all personal wealth and income; at the same time, the congregation assumes responsibility for her economic well being for the rest of her life.
“Agrégée sisters” profess a vow of fidelity to the congregation, but it is noncanonical, meaning that it is not governed by Church law and is instead a private vow between that sister and the Concordia congregation. It also means that the agrégée does not relinquish her finances to the congregation, and the congregation assumes no financial responsibility for her.

Women interested in either form of membership begin their candidacy with about two years of discernment and study. At the end of that time, those who feel called to canonically-vowed religious life will enter a “novitiate,” when they leave their previous life and live as part of the sisters’ community but have not yet taken up their works as a Sister of St. Joseph. For a woman who feels called to agrégée membership, there is also a third year of study and preparation, but they do not leave behind their outside lives. Instead, they meet with mentors and study around their regular work and life schedules. And once they have professed their vows, they continue in that work and life schedule.

In the past decade, nearly 20 women have come to the congregation, most as candidates for Agrégée membership and two as canonical sisters.

The Profession Mass coincided with the Sisters’ Spring Assembly, Weekend of Exploration and annual Jubilee celebration from June 7 to 11 at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Community welcomes Colorado candidate

June 18, 2014 by  

Sister Marcia Allen, right, welcomes Sharon Bolton as a candidate during the June Assembly

Sister Marcia Allen, right, welcomes Sharon Bolton as a candidate during the June Assembly

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The five members of the “Grand Junction community” join Sister Marcia Allen, second from left, in acknowledging Sharon Bolton, left, as the newest candidate for membership in the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

As part of our June Assembly, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia welcomed our newest candidate for membership.

Sharon Bolton is a business owner who lives half of the year in Grand Junction, Colo, and the other half in Gove, Kan. She has children and grandchildren in both areas and divides her time between them.

Sharon comes in to the congregation’s newly created “Preparation and Integration Program,” which brings together candidates for both canonical and agrégée membership for the first two years of what was traditionally called “formation.”

She is the third woman in the Preparation and Integration Program, joining Amanda Wahlmeier and Emily Brito who were welcomed as candidates last November. There are also four other candidates for agrégée membership.

TO READ ABOUT TWO CANDIDATES WHO WERE RECEIVED IN EARLY JULY, CLICK HERE.

Last year Sharon saw a poster in her Grand Junction parish about a faith formation program. There she met Sister Lorren Harbin of Fruta, Colo., one of four Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia who live and serve in the Grand Junction area. She got to know the other sisters there and then visited Concordia in November. She said she feels called by “the peacefulness and joy among the Grand Junction sisters and those she met in Concordia,” adding, “I haven’t experienced this inner peace before.”

She will spend about two years studying and praying with the sisters in Grand Junction. Then, as she enters her third year, she candidate will decide which direction she is called to — either canonical or agrégée. At that point, canonical candidates — who in that final year of preparation will be called “novices” — will complete the study and other requirements of the Church as a woman religious. The agrégée candidates in their third year will continue the study required by the congregation to be received into the Sisters of St. Joseph.

The two forms of membership are the same in almost every aspect, but there are two significant differences:

  • “Canonically vowed sisters” profess the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, as defined by canon — or church — law. As part of the vow of poverty, an individual sister relinquishes all personal wealth and income; at the same time, the congregation assumes responsibility for her economic well being for the rest of her life.
  • “Agrégée sisters” profess a vow of fidelity to the congregation, but it is noncanonical, meaning that it is not governed by Church law and is instead a private vow between that sister and the Concordia congregation. And while it encompasses the three canonical vows, they are applied somewhat differently. The agrégée is called to live a frugal lifestyle, but she does not relinquish her finances to the congregation, and the congregation assumes no financial responsibility for her.

The word agrégée — pronounced ah-gre-ZHEY — comes from the French for “attached to” or “aggregated with.”

When the Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in France in the mid-17th century, two distinct forms of membership in the religious community developed: “City sisters,” who gathered in larger areas like LePuy, and “country sisters” (or agrégées) who lived and served in villages and throughout the most rural areas. That structure existed, and flourished, for nearly 150 years, until the French Revolution when religious communities were disbanded.

The Sisters of St. Joseph came back together in the early 1800s, but the autonomous small communities of “country sisters” had disappeared. It wasn’t until around 2004 that U.S. sisters researching their earliest roots realized that “agrégées” made up a distinct form of membership that had been recognized by the sisters themselves and the people they served as “real religious.”

The Concordia congregation approved a revitalized form of agrégée membership in 2006, and accepted the first two candidates, who would then become the first two modern agrégées: Sister Rosabel Flax of Ness City, Kan., and Sister Rosemary Foreman of Topeka.

This month, the congregation welcomed Sister Crystal Payment of Douglasville, Ga., as the 11th agrégée sister. The other agrégée sisters are living and serving in the Kansas cities of Topeka, Augusta, Chapman and Lindsborg, as well as Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo., Grand Junction, Colo., and Fruita, Colo.

Two women explore religious life in special weekend

April 26, 2014 by  

Each spring, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia have invited young Catholic women to “come and see” what religious life is all about, by spending a weekend at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

And each fall for the past several years, the sisters have invited mature, single Catholic women to an “Agrégée Information Day” to learn about another form of membership in the religious congregation that might be a fit for them.

This year for the first time the two events were merged as part of a new approach to what is traditionally called “religious formation.”

 

• • • • • •

Two “inquirers” – one from Norman, Okla., and one from Lawrence — took part in Saturday’s program during the first-ever “Weekend of Exploration” at the Motherhouse. Also on hand were about two dozen Sisters of St. Joseph and current candidates for membership.

The day included a history of the Sisters of St. Joseph from 17th century France to today, a presentation on the charism or mission of the Concordia sisters and discussions about the vows that all sisters profess.

But central to the program were the two forms of membership in the congregation.

In its earliest days, the congregation had two forms of membership: agrégée, pronounced ah-gre-ZHEYs and from the French for “attached to,” and sometimes called “country sisters,” and what would become known as canonical, or “city sisters.”

“From our very beginnings, you can call us variations on a theme,” explained Sister Marcia Allen, president of the congregation. “There were two distinct forms of membership in one charism.”

As all religious life became more regimented and institutionalized, agrégée membership faded away by about 1800.

So it was roughly 200 years later that the Concordia sisters began to hear questions from older, single, Catholic women who felt called to religious life. The primary question they asked was, Is there anything available for me?

From that question and lengthy historical research and congregational discussion came a rebirth of agrégée membership, which the Concordia sisters approved in 2006.

Since then 10 women have professed their vows as agrégées and one as a canonically vowed sister. Eight women are currently candidates for membership.

But that one canonically vowed sister – Sister Julie Christensen — laughed as she explained the “track envy” she felt. The agrégée candidates bonded together through study and fellowship, and she didn’t have the same opportunity. She also wondered if they were all studying the same things since they were all destined to be Sisters of St. Joseph.

So in June 2013, during the congregation’s Assembly, Sister Julie suggested that the two “tracks” for membership should be combined.

That combination or merging is now in the process, with a new structure called the “Preparation and Integration Program” — which led to the “Weekend of Exploration” presentations.

The new approach welcomes women into the congregation as candidates, and gives them time to discern which form of religious life they are called to — either canonical or agrégée.

As she enters her third year, a canonical candidate — who in that final year of preparation will be called a “novice” — will complete the study and other requirements of the Church as a woman religious. The agrégée candidate in her third year will continue the study required by the congregation to be received into the Sisters of St. Joseph.

“It’s what those early sisters did,” said Sister Marcia. “They adapted. So can we.”

Sister Jean Ann Walton agreed.

“Some 364 years ago, a priest and six women had an idea” about what it meant to be called to religious life, she said, referring to the congregation’s origin in 17th century France, “and we’re still living out that idea. It’s still developing and adapting to meet the times.”

In addition to the formal program Saturday, the two guests had time to visit with sisters, tour the Motherhouse and learn more about the congregation.

 

Agrégée Information Day: A rock, a rose, a rabbit — and Vatican II

September 21, 2013 by  

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As sisters and candidates gathered at the Nazareth Motherhouse Saturday for the sixth annual Agrégée Information Day, they explained a form of religious life that began some 370 years ago.

But their focus was more on recent history — the Second Vatican Council that was meeting in Rome 50 years ago.

• • • • • • • •

The annual fall event is designed to provide information and education to mature, single Catholic women who may be interested in entering the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. But it also provides a day for sisters and current candidates to reflect on their own lives and vocations.

The Sisters of St. Joseph have vividly embraced the renewal of religious life called for in one of the major Vatican II documents, said Sister Ann Ashwood, one of more than a dozen sisters and candidates who participated in the presentations.

Yet even as important as Perfectae Caritatis (or the Decree On Renewal of Religious Life) has been for the congregation, Sister Ann cited a second documentLumen Gentium (or the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church) — as central to the entire Church.

With three simple props, the longtime teacher from Grand Junction, Colo., made her point:

“A rock, a rose, a rabbit — God made each of these,” she said. “God created a rock to be a rock, a rose to be a rose and a rabbit to be a rabbit. Each is unique and loved, and each has its own purpose.”

And like those three simple objects, Lumen Gentium proclaims that each person has a special vocation, or calling, as a gift from God, she said

That special individual calling explains, in part, the revitalization of the type of membership in the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia called “agrégée.”

The word — pronounced ah-gre-ZHEY — comes from the French for “attached to” or “aggregated with.”

When the Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in France in the mid-17th century, two distinct forms of membership in the religious community developed: “City sisters,” who gathered in larger areas like LePuy, and “country sisters” (or agrégée sisters) who lived and served in villages and throughout the most rural areas. That structure existed, and flourished, for nearly 150 years, until the French Revolution when religious communities were disbanded.

The Sisters of St. Joseph came back together in the early 1800s, but the autonomous small communities of “country sisters” had disappeared. It wasn’t until around 2004 that U.S. sisters researching their earliest roots realized that “agrégées” made up a distinct form of membership that had been recognized by the sisters themselves and the people they served as “real religious.”

The Concordia congregation approved a revitalized form of agrégée membership in 2006, and accepted the first two candidates, who would then become the first two modern agrégées: Sister Rosabel Flax of Ness City, Kan., and Sister Rosemary Foreman of Topeka.

In June, the congregation welcomed Sister Elizabeth Weddle of Concordia as the 10th agrégée sister. The other agrégée sisters are living and serving in the Kansas cities of Topeka, Augusta and Chapman, as well as Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo., Grand Junction, Colo., and Fruita, Colo. Another five women – from Kansas, Colorado and Georgia — are agrégée candidates, in varying stages of the process of deciding if this form of religious life fits them and their spiritual needs.

Agrégée sisters are defined as women who commit themselves to active and inclusive love of God and the dear neighbor as expressed in the spirit and spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. They are viewed as members of the congregation in almost every aspect, but there are a couple of significant differences:

• “Canonically vowed sisters” profess the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, as defined by canon — or church — law. As part of the vow of poverty, an individual sister relinquishes all personal wealth and income; at the same time, the congregation assumes responsibility for her economic well being for the rest of her life.

• “Agrégée sisters” profess a vow of fidelity to the congregation, but it is noncanonical, meaning that it is not governed by Church law and is instead a private vow between that sister and the Concordia congregation. It also means that the agrégée does not relinquish her finances to the congregation, and the congregation assumes no financial responsibility for her.

Sister Loretta Jasper, who has served as a mentor to agrégée candidates, noted that she particularly appreciates that the “list of things we have in common is much longer than the list of what sets us apart.”

As part of Saturday’s program, a number of agrégée sisters and candidates talked about their journeys to the Sisters of St. Joseph and then answered questions about both forms of membership.

Sister Marcia Allen, who serves as president of the congregation, was also on hand, to give a presentation on the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph. And she, too, quoted Lumen Gentium: “The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one. …”

“I like that,” she told the crowd gathered at the Motherhouse. “It had never really struck me before. But it’s I Corinthians 12, and it speaks to why we are all here today:”

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.
There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone
it is the same God at work.

Newest Sister of St. Joseph reflects on lessons learned

June 7, 2013 by  

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Sister Elizabeth Weddle, center, is welcomed into the congregation Friday afternoon by her mentor, Sister Sylvia Winterscheidt, left, and Sister Ann Ashwood.

web-Beth-2It should come as no surprise that Elizabeth Weddle, who spent nearly 30 years as a special education teacher, wants to focus on lessons learned.

As the 65-year-old Kansas native became the newest Agrégée Sister of St. Joseph in a simple profession ceremony Friday afternoon, she insisted that what was important was not “me and my story,” but rather “what I have learned from living in community with these women.”

To learn more about the Agrégée Movement, CLICK HERE.

So here are some of the lessons — and the teachers:

From Sister Sylvia Winterscheidt, “I learned that life is a process.”

From Sister Jeanette Wasinger, it was “both statement and question. The statement is, I am immersed in God and God is immersed in me. The questions: Have I loved enough? Have I been kind enough?”

From Sister Ann Ashwood, it was an answer to a long-pondered question: How does one glorify God? “By bringing Jesus’ love to the world.”

From Sister Janet Lander, it was the grace of Jesus’ words: “Come to me and we will work on this together.”

From Sister Bette Moslander: “Love of neighbor is not necessarily an emotional love, but a choice one makes with her actions every day.”

And from Sister Marcia Allen, it was the words of St. Ignatius Loyola: “The path God made for us is the path we take to God.”

The path God made for Beth, as she is known, began in Kansas but then took her to Alaska where her parents were teachers and she earned her diploma from a Presbyterian-run Indian boarding school. After high school, she went to Rochester, N.Y., where she struggled to find direction — until she earned a teaching certificate and began working with kids challenged by learning disabilities and emotional issues.

That led to a master’s degree from Nazareth College in Rochester and eventually a return to Kansas. She taught in Wichita until her retirement five years ago. She had also married; her husband died in May 2000.

Throughout her life, Beth had sought out different religions, she says — spending some early childhood years in the Baptist Church, then the Presbyterian boarding school and later a Methodist Church, Unity Church, Quaker Meetings and even an ashram.

“I think I was a restless dabbler,” she says with a laugh. “I always felt close to God even though I wasn’t drawn to a church. The Catholic Church did hold an attraction, though.”

In 1997 she called the local Catholic parish and asked about adult education classes. She was told a new session was starting the next day — and so her education in Catholicism began.

After her husband’s death she explored the idea of becoming a Partner in Mission with the Dominican Sisters of Great Bend, Kan. Then, after retiring from public schools in 2008, she lived at the Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse in Great Bend and taught reading at the Catholic school there.

But there were dramatic changes taking place among the Dominican community. The Great Bend sisters had voted to merge their congregation with six others, which together in 2009 became the Dominican Sisters of Peace. The new merged congregation did not plan to continue the Partners in Mission program, but one of the Dominicans “encouraged me to talk with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia about their new agrégée program,” Beth recalls. So she arranged a meeting with Sisters Marcia Allen and Bette Moslander and then came back for “Agrégée Information Day” in September 2010. Two months later she was accepted into the community as an agrégée candidate.

Beth quickly moved to Concordia, where she could also make a home for her 93-year-old mother at Mount Joseph Senior Village. And she began volunteering at the Motherhouse, first as a fill-in receptionist and driver and then as a full-time assistant in the sisters’ Development Office.

She recently made the decision to leave the Development Office and volunteer full time with the local Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization and has trained to be a hospice volunteer.

“Part of the appeal of the agrégées is to be a member of a community of women who are making a commitment to living the Gospels,” Beth explains. “That means caring for the poor and loving our neighbors; those are the values — and lessons — I find in the Sisters of St. Joseph.”

She is the 10th agrégée sister to enter the congregation since the Sisters of St. Joseph revived this form of religious life in 2006. There are another five women currently studying as agrégée candidates.

• • • • • • • •

Sister Julie Christensen

Sister Julie Christensen

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Sister Dian Hall

Two “canonical sisters” also took part in Friday’s ceremony at the Motherhouse. Sister Dian Hall was welcomed into the congregation as a novice and Sister Julie Christensen renewed her temporary vows.

Sister Dian has just moved to Concordia from Cartersville, Ga., to begin her “canonical year” as a novice Sister of St. Joseph. She will live with the sisters here and study and pray for the next 12 months while deciding if she is called to profess the traditional vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

Sister Julie, a native of Concordia who now lives and serves at Manna House of Prayer, first professed her temporary vows three years ago.

The ceremony was led by Sister Marcia Allen, president of the congregation. Following the professions, all the sisters gathered at the Motherhouse for their annual June Assembly took part in their commissioning ceremony. In that, each sister and candidate is called upon to make a public commitment to her ministry for the coming year.

 

Special ceremony marks fulfillment of a lifelong need

November 11, 2012 by  

Sister Susan Klepper, just visible in the center right, is nearly engulfed by Sisters of St. Joseph during a blessing at the end of her profession ceremony Sunday morning at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

“I’ve been looking for this my entire life,” says Susan Klepper, who professed her vow Sunday as an Agrégée Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia.

• • • • • • • • •

By “this,” she means “something everybody seems to say: A closer and deeper relationship with God, and believing that happens in community.”

By “my entire life,” she means from when she and a childhood friend played “school” with the girl’s nephews and Susan was the nun-teacher.

But the path that brought the 72-year-old St. Louis native to the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia was not a direct one. Yet for all its changes of direction, she says now, it felt inevitable.

As an eighth-grade student in parochial school in St. Louis, she met a Sister of St. Joseph for the first time. “She was more like a mother than a teacher,” Susan says of Sister Stella Aurelia Helm, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. “She made a great impression on me.”

Then, at 17, she entered the Carondelet sisters in St. Louis as a postulant. But after only three or four months, she left the convent and went home “due to some family conflict.”

She never returned. Instead, at 19 she got married and began a life that would include two daughters in the next few years.

Susan was just 26 when her husband died.

A handful of years later, she remarried and her family grew to include two stepsons and a third daughter.

Along the way she earned a bachelor’s degree from Webster University in St. Louis and then an MBA from Fontbonne University, also St. Louis. She also received training through Washington University, and built her career as an adult medical nurse practitioner.

Throughout those years, she says, the call to religious life never really went away. In 1999, when Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis, her husband Jerry teased about it, saying, “You still like the idea of being a nun.”

A couple of years later, when Jerry became critically ill, the idea returned. “I thought about what I would do with the rest of my life,” she says.

After her husband’s death in 2002, she talked with the Carondelet sisters about feeling called to religious life, “But I was told ‘no;’ I was too old.”

Instead, the Carondelet sisters told Susan about CSJ Associates — women and men, married and single, who share the spirit of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet without becoming vowed members. She became a candidate and finally a CSJ Associate in 2008.

It was through that connection that Susan read an article about the Agrégée form of vowed membership that the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia had re-created a few years earlier.

The Carondelet and Concordia congregations have shared roots going back to the original Sisters of St. Joseph in 17th century France, but are separate and autonomous organizations. They are among more than a dozen separate congregations of Sisters of St. Joseph in the United States and Canada.

But all Susan knew were the Carondelet sisters in St. Louis.

So she contacted Sister Bette Moslander in Concordia to learn more about what has been called “religious life for the 21st century” and then came to an “Agrégée Information Day” in the fall of 2010.

Among the Concordia sisters she found “such kindness and love, and such a sense of belonging. I was overwhelmed. This is the community — the aura of community — I had been looking for without even realizing it.”

In November 2010, Susan became a candidate for agrégée membership and has spent the last two years studying the history and charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph. That has included working with her mentor, Sister Loretta Jasper.

“You can sit and pray and meditate or go on retreats,” Susan explains, “but these two years have been so powerful; I’ve grown so much.”

After her profession ceremony Sunday, Sister Susan returned home to St. Louis, to her six grandchildren and two great-grandsons, to her dogs Buster and Sugar, to St. Vincent de Paul Parish and to her service as a hospice volunteer.

But, she says, it will all have been changed in a subtle yet powerful way.

She had asked that a special hymn be played during her profession ceremony Sunday: “He Looked Beyond My Faults,” which is played to the music of “Danny Boy.”

The music is testament to her Irish heritage, Susan says, and the words are testament to her journey to Concordia.

“ ‘He looked beyond my faults and saw my need’ — and my need throughout my life was what I’ve found with the sisters in Concordia.”

 TO LEARN MORE about the Agrégée Movement and the four women who became candidates on Saturday, CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

Sisters welcome four new candidates

November 10, 2012 by  

As Susan Klepper prepared to profess her vow Sunday morning as the ninth woman who has entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia as an agrégée since 2006, another four women joined the three others who are currently candidates for agrégée membership.

The term agrégée — pronounced ah-gre-ZHEY — comes from the French word for “attached to” or “aggregated with,” and it dates to the religious order’s founding in France during the mid 17th century.

Based on research into the original constitution and rules for the congregation, written by founder and Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre Medaille, the sisters now recognize that in addition to vowed members of the order, there were also “agrégées.” While an agrégée did not make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, she did profess a vow of fidelity to God and to the congregation and lived according to the rules of the Sisters of St. Joseph. As an agrégée, she was recognized by the local people and the local churches as a sister.

As the modern Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia studied their origins and their original spirituality, they revived that early practice based on what they learned. The Senate of the Concordia congregation approved agrégée membership in 2006.

The first modern agrégée — Rosabel Flax of Ness City, Kan. — professed a vow of fidelity to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in 2008. Other agrégées live and serve in the Kansas cities of Topeka, Augusta and Chapman, as well as Kansas City, Mo., Grand Junction, Colo., and Fruita, Colo.

The current agrégée candidates are from Concordia, Wakeeny, Kan., and Douglasville, Ga.

In a simple ceremony Saturday morning, those candidates were joined by four other women. They are:

 

• Christina Brodie, who recently moved to Concordia to serve as the volunteer coordinator of the Hands Across anti-poverty initiative. She is a New York native and a  just-retired advertising executive who lived most recently in Jensen Bench, Fla.

 

• Teresa Hernandez, a Salina native who graduated from Marymount College in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. She is a cellist who recently began a second career in the field of social work and counseling. She lives in Salina.

 

• Denise Ann Schmitz, who was born in Plainville, Kan., and has spent most of her life in the Norton, Kan., area. She has worked for USDA-Farm Service Agency for 26 years and has one grown daughter, Shelley.

 

• Kathleen Lee Stairs, who was born in Bakersfield, Calif., and raised in Fresno, Calif. After moving to Denver, she married Charles Stairs in 1958; he died in 2011. She spent the majority of her working career with United Airlines before retiring in 1999. She now lives in Elizabeth, Colo., and her two married sons live nearby.

 

Agrégées are defined as mature, single Catholic women who commit themselves to active and inclusive love of God and the dear neighbor as expressed in the spirit and spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. In almost every aspect, they are viewed as full members of the congregation, meaning they have a voice and a vote on congregational issues.

There are three significant differences, however.

• “Canonically vowed sisters” profess the canonical — meaning governed by Church law — vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. As part of the vow of poverty, an individual sister relinquishes all personal wealth and income; at the same time, the congregation assumes responsibility for her economic well being for the rest of her life.

• “Agrégée sisters” profess a vow of fidelity to the congregation, but it is noncanonical, meaning that it is not part of Church law and is instead a private vow between that sister and the Concordia congregation. It also means that the agrégée does not relinquish her finances to the congregation, and the congregation assumes no financial responsibility for her.

• Also, vowed sisters begin their religious life with a formal “formation” that includes a postulancy and novitiate that are, together, about three years. During this time, they have left their previous life, but haven’t yet taken up their works as a Sister of St. Joseph. For agrégées, the period of being a candidate may be about the same length of time, but they do not leave behind their outside lives. Instead, they meet with mentors and study around their regular work and life schedules. And once they have professed their vows, they return to that work and life schedule.

Other congregations of St. Joseph have developed similar definitions or are doing their own studies, but the Concordia congregation is the first to recognize agrégées as full members of the community.

TO READ ABOUT Sister Susan Klepper and her profession ceremony Sunday, CLICK HERE.

 

The agrégées, candidates and team members gather for a group photo Saturday morning.

 

Annual ‘Information Day’ focuses on agrégée movement

September 22, 2012 by  

Sister Rosabel Flax, the first modern agrégée to join the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, talks about the congregation’s history as part of Agrégée Information day Saturday at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

 

Each fall, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia invite women to an “Information Day” at the Nazareth Motherhouse to learn about the agrégée movement, which offers a new type of membership in the religious congregation.

The difference this year was that the agrégée sisters themselves organized the event Saturday and presented much of the information.

• • • • • • • •

The term agrégée — pronounced ah-gre-ZHEY — comes from the French word for “attached to” or “aggregated with.” In the Concordia congregation, they are single, mature Catholic women who enter a candidacy period of up to three years before they profess a vow of fidelity to God and to the congregation. But unlike canonical sisters who leave behind their former lives and become financially dependent on the congregation, agrégées remain financially independent and generally continue their previous lives and work.

In the past few years other communities of Sisters of St. Joseph have developed similar definitions or are doing their own studies, but the Concordia congregation is the only one that recognizes agrégées as full members of the community.

Today there are eight agrégées who are members of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia; they live in Kansas, Missouri and Colorado. Another four women are in varying stages of the process of deciding if this form of religious life fits them and their spiritual needs.

On Saturday, five of those agrégées and three of the candidates were joined by nearly 20 other Sisters of St. Joseph to welcome two women — one from Norton, Kan., and one from Salina — interested in learning more.  Also on hand were two special guests — two sisters from the Congregation of St. Joseph, which is another religious community that shares its roots with the Concordia sisters.

“We’re scouts,” explained Sister Judith Minear, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph who lives in Charleston, W.Va. “Because of our shared history, we wanted to learn more.”

Saturday’s program allowed them to do just that.

Led by Sister Rosabel Flax, the first modern agrégée to enter the Concordia congregation, the day covered the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph from our founding in France in the mid 17th century, our original charism and mission and how that applies to the works undertaken by the Concordia sisters, and the development since 2006 of what’s been called “21st-century religious life.”

To view a 12-minute video that was presentation as part of the program, CLICK HERE.

 

 

Women share spiritual path to Saturday’s profession

June 9, 2012 by  

Kathy Schaefer, left, and Lorren Harbin bow their heads in prayer before the ceremony this morning in which they professed vows as the newest Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Lorren Harbin and Kathy Schaefer first met just a little over two years ago. And while their physical paths have been markedly distant — one lives near Grand Junction, Colo., while the other lives just outside Wichita — their spiritual paths brought them together in Concordia on Saturday morning.

 

• • • • • • • • •

Lorren and Kathy became the two newest members of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia during a special Mass and ceremony at the Nazareth Motherhouse. Each professed a vow of fidelity to God and to the congregation as an agrégée sister.

The term agrégée — pronounced ah-gre-ZHEY — comes from the French for “attached to” or “aggregated with.” It is a form of membership in the religious congregation that dates back to its founding in 17th-century France, when Sisters of St. Joseph were either canonically vowed “principal sisters” or so-called agrégée or “country” sisters. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia re-established — and revitalized — this form of religious life in 2006. Today there are six women who have professed their vows as “agrégées,” and another four are in varying stages of the process of deciding if this form of religious life fits them and their spiritual needs.

 To learn more about the Agrégée form of membership, CLICK HERE.

Another agrégée candidate, Dian Hall of Cartersville, Ga., has just entered the novitiate to become a canonically vowed member. She had been an agrégée candidate for about a year.

The congregation received Sisters Lorren and Kathy as agrégée candidates in June 2010. And, they note, they are the first two who entered together and they took their vows together.

Sister Lorren Harbin

Sister Lorren, who lives is Fruita, Colo., now teaches at-risk high school students. But the 59-year-old Alabama native spent 30 years in the tourism industry in Florida before moving to Colorado about seven years ago.

At that time, she described herself as a “Sunday and holiday Catholic.” But, she notes, “Throughout my life, because I was always single, I’d wonder about religious life. It was always a curiosity, but I never pursued it; I didn’t know any sisters.”

That changed in the fall of 2006 when she signed up for a “Just Faith” class at a Grand Junction church and met Sisters Pat Lewter and Faye Huelsmann, both Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

“I was being introduced to modern sisters for the first time,” she recalls. And then she met Ann Ashwood, who entered the agrégée program in 2008 and professed her vow as a Sister of St. Joseph in 2010.

“Ann said she wanted what (Sister Pat and Faye) had: Happiness, peace, serenity, fun and an openness to new ideas and adventures,” Sister Lorren says, on the day before she is to profess her vow at the Motherhouse. “I want that, too. My life experience has led me to this.”

And people from throughout that life experience were on hand Saturday when she became Sister Lorren. Her special guests included her mother from Kissimmee, Fla., a sister from Kalispell, Mont., one brother from Houston and another from Dallas, her best friend and neighbor in Fruita and a family from her home parish.

Father Mike Smith, the pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Fruita, was also on hand, to jointly celebrate the Mass with Father Jim Hoover, the Motherhouse chaplain.

Sister Kathy Schaefer

Unlike Sister Lorren, Kathy Schaefer was attracted to religious life early on. “At my eighth-grade graduation, I told my mom I was interested in being a sister,” the 62-year-old recalls. But she was counseled to wait until after high school to make any commitment.

By that time, it felt like the call had lessened, she says now, but it returned intermittently over the next couple of decades.

Finally, in the early 1990s, she entered the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, a small monastic community in Clyde, Mo. “The prayer life called to me, but the monastic life did not,” Sister Kathy says now. She remained with the Benedictines for just two years.

It was about that time that she met Jean Ann Walton, who had entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in the early 1980s but left after seven years in the congregation.

So the former Benedictine and former Sister of St. Joseph decided religious life was probably just not for them.

“But God is patient,” Kathy notes with a laugh.

By 2000, Jean Ann had reconnected with the Concordia sisters, and she invited Kathy along to a retreat in Concordia. Here Kathy met Sister Mary Julia Stegeman, who shared her love of gardening.

In 2004, Kathy explains, “Sister Mary Julia asked me if I ever thought about being an Associate, and in 2006 I became a CSJ Associate. Then in 2007 she asked me if I ever thought about being an agrégée, and in 2010 — just two months after Sister Mary Julia’s death — I became an agrégée candidate.”

In the meantime, her friend Jean Ann Walton had also become a candidate; she professed her vow as an agrégée in June 2010.

Today Sister Kathy lives in Augusta, Kan., where she works in the laundry at Lake Point Nursing Center. She also offers informal pastoral ministry to both residents and staff there, and assists at her parish, St. Vincent de Paul in Andover, Kan.

Guests attending her profession will include her brother from Marblehead, Mass., and a nephew from Scottsdale, Ariz., as well as a number of friends from work. A special guest will be Sister Patty Johnson, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Louis who is executive director of the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation. She and Sister Kathy met while they were both attending a monthlong program at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia.

Georgia woman joins congregation as agrégée candidate

November 23, 2011 by  

On hand for the agrégée reception were, from left, Sister Diane Brin, Sister Helen Mick, new candidate Crystal Payment, Father Bill Hao, Sister Jodi Creten and fellow candidate Dian Hall.

Crystal Payment of Douglasville, Ga., became the newest candidate for Agrégée membership in the Sisters of St. Joseph during a simple ceremony Sunday (Nov. 20).

She is the seventh woman currently in the process to become an agrégée, a form of membership in the congregation that dates back to its founding in 1650 and that was revitalized by the sister in Concordia in 2006.

From left: Crystal's daughter-in-law Patrice, son Andrew, Crystal, granddaughter Megan and daughter Julie.

Crystal was received by Sister Diane Brin of Rome, Ga., representing the Leadership Council of the congregation, as well of her two mentors, Sisters Jodi Creten and Helen Mick of Atlanta. Also on hand was Dian Hall, an agrégée candidate who lives in Cartersville, Ga. The reception took place at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, Ga.

Crystal’s spiritual director, Father Bill Hao, gave her a special blessing at the end of the service.

The term agrégée — pronounced ah-gre-ZHEY — comes from the French for “attached to” or “aggregated with.” It is a form of membership in the religious congregation that dates back to our founding in 17th-century France, when Sisters of St. Joseph were either canonically vowed “principal sisters” or so-called agrégée or “country” sisters. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia re-established — and revitalized — this form of religious life in 2006. Today there are six women who have professed the vow of fidelity to God and to the congregation as agrégées.

Crystal and the other candidates will spend up to three years studying, both with their mentors and other members of the congregation, and ultimately  deciding if this form of religious life fits them and their spiritual needs.

For more information on the agrégée movement, contact Sister Bette Moslander at 785/243-4428 or bmoslander@mannahouse.org

Or, for an archive of all our news about agrégées, CLICK HERE.

 

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