Concordia sisters welcome Federation novices

September 25, 2015 by

web-Brodie,Christina-Concordia-MUGSister Christina Brodie
Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia
web-Carbotte,Christine-Ontario-MUGSister Christine Carbotte
Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada
web-Ford,VaradaGrace-StAugustine-MUGSister Grace Ford
Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, Fla.
web-Larocque,MaryAnne-Ontario-MUGSister Mary Anne Larocque
Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada
web-Smith,Donna-Ontario-MUGSister Donna Smith
Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada
web-Urbinelli,Patricia-Watertown-MUGSister Patricia Urbinelli
Sisters of St. Joseph of Watertown, N.Y.

Three Canadians and three Americans have come together in Concordia late this summer to become the first “class” of novices in a program that will be hosted by the sisters and staff at Manna House of Prayer for the next two years.

The program is the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation Novitiate, which welcomes women from various St. Joseph religious communities who are in final stages of the process of becoming a vowed sister.

The Federation Novitiate has been housed in Chicago and hosted by the Congregation of St. Joseph for the past three years. But in late 2014 the Federation Governing Council announced the program would move to Concordia for the next two years and three Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia would direct it.

Sister Betty Suther is novice director for the program, with Sister Mary Jo Thummel as assistant novice director and Sister Ann Ashwood as program director.

Sister Betty also serves as administrator at Manna House, where she continues to live. Sister Mary Jo, who also lives in Concordia, serves on the congregation’s Leadership Council.

Sister Ann is from Grand Junction, Colo., and has moved to Concordia to take up her new duties.

The novices in the program this year, listed with their hometown and congregation that they are a part of, are:

  • Sister Christina Brodie; New York, N.Y.; Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia
  • Sister Christine Carbotte; Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada
  • Sister Grace Ford; Staten Island, N.Y.; Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, Fla.
  • Sister Mary Anne Larocque; Peterborough, Ontario, Canada; Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada
  • Sister Donna Smith; Vernonville, Ontario, Canada; Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada
  • Sister Patricia Urbinelli; Mamaroneck, N.Y.; Sisters of St. Joseph of Watertown, N.Y.

The congregations that take part in the novitiate program are all part of the Sisters of St. Joseph “family tree” that began with a single, small group of women in Le Puy, France, in about 1650. Today, 365 years later, there are branches worldwide.

In the United States, the independent communities of women religious who are a part of that genealogy form a loose cooperative organization called the U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia is one of about two dozen American congregations.

Together there are roughly 7,000 Sisters of St. Joseph in the United States, and about 14,000 worldwide.

In the 1970s, the federation began inviting novices — women who have already spent a year in formal preparation for becoming a sister and discernment on their religious calling — and the formation directors from their congregations to come together four times a year.

Through the 1980s and into the ’90s, more congregations took part, and the time devoted to the increasingly formal “novitiate program” increased.

As the 1990s ended, the federation approved what is now a nine-month residential program. That was offered for the first time in 2000, hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery in West Hartford, Conn.

Other congregations have hosted the novitiate, and twice in the ensuing years there have been no novices in the program. For the past three years the program has been hosted by the Congregation of St. Joseph — a community that formed when seven smaller communities (including the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita) merged in 2007 — and located at a house owned by the congregation in Chicago.

The program will be in Concordia for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 years, which roughly coincide with school years.

“This has the potential for a very good year,” said Sister Eileen McCann, representing the Leadership Council of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph at the novices’ orientation Aug. 26. “Concordia has much to offer our novices.”

Agreed, said Sister Connie Sylver, the novice director for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Watertown, N.Y., who was also on hand for the orientation. “This is an ideal location for the novitiate. Manna House is peaceful, the town is quiet. There is open space for being, walking, and praying.

“Here the novices can stay focused on the purpose of why they are here — deepening their relationship with God and gaining a broader understanding of our charism and the vows.”

Study during their months at Manna House will include the 365-year history of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the documents of Vatican II, Ignatian spirituality, ecclesiology, spiritual life, liturgy and the sacraments, prayer, the vows and discernment.

 

 

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