Sisters welcome four new candidates

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.


4 thoughts on “Sisters welcome four new candidates

  • December 31, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Freshness of air, spirit and views of charism abound in these women who have joined us. Thank you and blessings!

  • November 18, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    How wonderful to have these new members and candidates in our community. All the grace, wisdom, experience and high quality that they bring to us is certainly a blessing.

  • November 17, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Call, and response to active and inclusive love living the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia is always fresh and growing. May we continue to live with eyes and arms open!

  • November 13, 2012 at 6:52 am

    Our beautiful community is remaining true to its charism and continues to call women who want to live this charism with us! Bring it on, God!

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