The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia welcomed two new sisters on July 19.
Carol Goodson and Robin Stephenson both made their agrégée Vows of Religious Profession at the Sacred Heart Chapel in the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia, Kansas.
Each sister took a unique path to finding their religious calling with the Community in Concordia.
After retirement as a librarian from the University of West Georgia in 2015, a priest led her to ask God if she could possibly become a sister.
“Two days later my prayer was answered when I saw some information about the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia,” Sister Carol said.
“On my very first visit to Concordia in June 2016, I was so touched by the warm reception I got from the sisters.”
After profession, Sister Carol is returning to Georgia to begin new ministries in the Atlanta area.
In her previous ministry, she was president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in her parish in Carrollton, Georgia. In that capacity, in addition to leading the organization, she visited the poor in their homes in order to assess their needs and pray with them.
“We nearly always provided financial assistance to them as well, usually with utilities or rent,” Sister Carol said. “We also had a food pantry in the parish which was very heavily used, and we conducted a monthly distribution of frozen food to our clients.”
“Once I have chosen a home parish, I will introduce myself to the pastor and ask what he needs, offering myself to do it,” Sister Carol said. “I was part of the RCIA team at my previous parish, and — as a convert — that work is very close to my heart. One of my long-term goals is to try to start a CSJ Associate group in my new home area.”
Sister Robin Stephenson was facing retirement and trying to find a way to become closer to God. The Internet gave her a hand in finding the Sisters of St. Joseph.
“Initially I took an online personal inventory on whether religious life would be feasible. The inventory validated aptitudes toward religious formation,” Sister Robin said.
She was coming up on 40 years of pediatric and school nursing, but didn’t really feel like she was done yet. Additionally, Sister Robin wanted to draw even closer to God and the charism of inclusive service seemed to fit her vocational goals.
A native of Jacksonville, Florida, residing now in Portland Oregon, Sister Robin has been a district school nurse in Beaverton, Oregon, for the past 26 years, and anticipates retirement in 2021.
“I was married for many years, and then my marriage was annulled. I have two beautiful children who are now grown adults,” Sister Robin said. “There is also a beautiful five-year-old granddaughter that is one of the lights of my life.”
Robin said after finding information on the Sisters of St. Joseph, she contacted Sister Lorren Harbin about four years ago. She visited in Concordia on her school summer break.
“I was instantly drawn to the sisters. Over the three years of discernment I definitely felt like I wanted to be a part of this beautiful group of women and the work they do,” Sister Robin said. “If I could just be a sponge to soak up some of their wisdom … I just fit. It feels like a part of family when I’m with the sisters.”
Sister Robin said she plans to continue living in Oregon and fulfilling her mission there.
“Currently I’m on the Eucharistic ministerial team at St. Mary’s of the Immaculate Conception at the Cathedral however, the Covid-19 times have lessened that right now,” Sister Robin said. “I assisted with second grade religious education and first reconciliation and communion at the Cathedral last year.”
“All the CSJ sisters with whom I have had the opportunity to be with have shown their soul beauty and love,” Sister Robin said. “I pray it continues to rub off and influence the rest of my life.”
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.
Father Barry Brinkman presided over the liturgy while Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, president, received the vows in the name of the Congregation.