Sisters of St. Joseph

Sisters of St. Joseph
An old convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Ste. Geneviève, Missouri.

The title Sisters of St. Joseph applies to several Roman Catholic religious congregations of women. The largest and oldest of these was founded in Le Puy-en-Velay, France. This Congregation has approximately 14,000 members worldwide: about 7,000 in the United States; 2,000 in France; and are active in fifty other countries.

The Congregation was founded in Le Puy by the Jesuit Jean Paul Médaille on October 15, 1650. On the following March 10th, the local bishop, Henri de Maupas, granted ecclesiastical approval to these women. On December 13 1651, the Sisters of St. Joseph presented themselves to the Royal Notary in LePuy for their legal incorporation.

Only one, a widow, could sign her name and only two brought any kind of dowry. They had taken over the administration of the hospital-orphanage in the rue de Montferrand in LePuy and were connected with the work of Father Médaille, whom they consider their founder.


Post-Revolutionary France

A series of articles on

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General articles
St. JosephHoly FamilySaint Joseph's Day

Prayers & Devotions
PrayerNovena • Chaplet • Scapular • Cord

Sisters of St. JosephJosephite FathersOblates of St. Joseph

Papal Documents
Redemptoris Custos • Quamquam Pluries

The new Congregation enjoyed rapid growth, expanding into eighteen houses during the first decade. By the time of the French Revolution, almost 150 years later, the Sisters had spread to twelve dioceses in the southeast corner of France. The Congregation of Saint Joseph was disbanded during the French Revolution and was re-established in 1807 by Mother St. John Fontbonne in Lyon, France.

In 1789, religious communities were forbidden by the state. The convents and chapels of the community were confiscated in 1793. The Sisters were forced to choose between returning to their families or leaving France to join communities in other countries. Some of the Sisters who remained became martyrs. Three in Dauphiné and two Haute-Loire were sent to the guillotine because they refused to take the Civil Oath. Others were imprisoned at St-Didier, Feurs and Clermont[disambiguation needed ].

Mother Saint John Fontbonne was unable to restore her original convent. However, the Vicar General, the Abbé Claude Cholleton, invited her to Saint-Étienne to take charge of a little band of religious representing different communities which had been disbanded during the Revolution. In several places the Government approved of the return of the sisters to their long-vacant convents, and in some cases Revolutionary proprietors sold back to the sisters the property which had been confiscated. 22201 As word of the Sisters' services and good deeds grew, dioceses throughout France requested the services of the restored Congregation.

In 1812 a colony of Sisters was sent to Chambéry, in Savoy, France under Mother St. John Marcoux. In 1843 Mother Superior was assumed by Mother Félicité. More than eighty houses rose beneath her hand, and when, in 1861, a state normal school was opened at Rumilly, Savoy, France. it was placed in charge of the sisters. Meanwhile the Chambéry sisters had been constituted a diocesan congregation, but as years went on a stronger administration became necessary.

The rule was therefore revised to meet the requirements of a generalate, and papal approbation was granted in 1874 by rescript of Pius IX. Under the new form of government the congregation is subject to a superior general, whose term of office is six years and is divided into provinces, each possessing a novitiate.

The novices, after two years probation, make annual vows for two years, after which they bind themselves by perpetual vows. The rule is based on that of St. Augustine. In 1902 many French houses of the order were closed by the Government, in consequence of which a large number of Sisters left for Denmark, Russia and the United States.

In 1819 a foundation from the motherhouse in Lyon was established in the Diocese of Belley under the leadership of Mother Saint Joseph Chaney. In 1823 the Sisters of that diocese formally separated from community in Lyon. They became a new and independent diocesan congregation under the leadership of Reverend Mother Saint Benoit Cornillon and the authority of Bishop Alexander Devie.

Several other foundations spread from France throughout the world.

Today, the Sisters operate many Catholic schools and hospitals in France, United States, Canada, Japan and England. In India they operate hospitals, homes, and orphanages.

United States

The Sisters aspire to "a profound love of God and the dear neighbor", and love and work so that all may be one.

The Sisters' mission statement: "As Sisters of St. Joseph, our mission is that of the church: to continue the mission of Jesus given Him by His Father. It is our responsibility, both as congregation and as individuals within the church, to share the task of identifying and responding to spiritual and material needs...the expression of these needs varies with the times, cultures, and condition of persons. The congregation sends its member in the name of the church to share in building Christ's kingdom of justice, love, and peace through our charism of unity and reconciliation."

Because of the rapid growth of the institute and the increasing demand for sisters from all parts of the United States, the superiors of the community were by 1860 forced to consider means best adapted to give stability and uniformity to the growing congregation. A general chapter was convoked in May 1860, to which representatives from every house of the congregation in America were called.

At this meeting a plan for uniting all the communities under a general government was discussed and accepted by the sisters and afterwards by many of the bishops in whose dioceses the sisters were engaged. This plan, together with the constitutions, revised so as to meet the requirements of the new condition, was presented to the Holy See for approval. In September 1863, Pope Pius IX issued the letter of commendation of the institute and its works, holding the constitutions for examination and revision by the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars.

The first decree of approbation was granted June 7, 1867, and ten years later, May 16, 1877, a decree approving the institute and constitutions was issued by the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars. On July 31, 1877, Pius IX, by special Brief, confirmed the institute and constitutions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Thus, with the sanction of the Church came the unification of communities in various dioceses with the mother-house at Carondelet, now in the city of St. Louis.

The congregation in 1910 divided into four provinces: St. Louis, Missouri; St. Paul, Minnesota; Troy, New York; Los Angeles, California. The St. Louis province comprises the houses of the congregation in the Archdioceses of St. Louis and Chicago and the Dioceses of St. Joseph, Kansas, Indianapolis, Peoria, Belleville, Alton, Denver, Marquette, Green Bay, Mobile, and Diocese of Oklahoma. The province of St. Paul includes the Archdiocese of St. Paul and the Diocese of Winona and Fargo.

The congregation was made up of 1802 sisters, in charge of 125 educational institutions, including colleges, academies, conservatories of music and art, and parochial schools, with an attendance of 40,848; 17 charitable educational institutions, including orphan asylums, Indian, Coloured, and deaf-mute schools, with an attendance of 2121; and 10 hospitals, with an average of 8285 patients.

The province of Troy is formed of the houses established in the Dioceses of Albany and Syracuse, New York. The province of Los Angeles comprises the houses of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the Diocese of Tucson and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The superior general and four general councillors, elected every six years by the whole congregation, form the general governing body, assisted by a superior provincial and four provincial councillors in each province. The provincial officers are appointed by the general officers every three years, as also are the local superiors of all the provinces.

In each provincial house, as in the mother-house, a novitiate is established. The term, of postulantship extends from three to Six months, the term of novitiate two years, after which annual vows are taken for a period of five years, when perpetual vows are taken. All are received on the same footing, all enjoy the same privileges, and all are subject to the same obedience which assigns duties according to ability, talent, and aptitude.

Although an interchange of members of the various provinces is allowed and made use of for general or particular needs, the autonomy of each province is safeguarded. The constitutions, while establishing on a solid basis the idea of a general government, allow no small share of local initiative and carefully provide for local needs. In this way too much centralization or peril to establishments working in accordance with local and special exigencies is fully guarded against.

The Sisters are known for their work in education and health care, and their activism in opposing the death penalty— ( see Sister Helen Prejean).

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

In 1836, eight sisters of the Lyon congregation arrived in St. Louis after Most Rev. Joseph Rosati of St. Louis wrote asking for Sisters to teach the deaf and to work with Native Americans.

These sisters founded the Carondelet congregation, which was not cloistered. The Bishop had been advised to "get the Sisters of St. Joseph because they will do anything." Two convents were established – one in Cahokia, Illinois, which closed in 1855, the other in Carondelet, a village on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. The sisters settled in a log cabin in Carondelet near St. Louis, Missouri, and founded a school for deaf students in 1837. The St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf still operates.

Bishop Rosati named Mother Celestine Pommerel superior of the Carondelet community in 1840. In 1847 the first foundation outside St. Louis was made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, followed shortly by foundations in St. Paul, Minnesota and Toronto, Canada. In 1858 the sisters went to New York state, where they established a school in Oswego.

As foundations continued to multiply, the need for centralized government was recognized. At the invitation of Mother St. John Facemaz, successor to Mother Celestine, delegates from the several branches of the Sisters of St. Joseph met in St. Louis in May 1860 to approve a plan of general government. Three provinces were established, with headquarters in St. Louis. Missouri, St. Paul, Minnesota and Troy, New York. Mother St. John Facemaz was elected first superior general for a term of six years. (Some communities at this time made the decision to remain under diocesan jurisdiction.)

One of the first concerns of Mother St. John Facemaz was to secure papal approbation for the Constitutions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Shortly after her election, Mother St. John went to Rome and presented a copy of the Constitutions for approval. A degree of commendation was received in 1863. Some years later, when Mother Agatha Guthrie was superior general, the final approbation was received, dated May 16, 1877. This approval established the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet as a congregation of pontifical right.

A fourth province was added in 1876 with provincial headquarters in Tucson, Arizona. In 1903 the provincialate was moved from Tucson to Los Angeles. Subsequently, several small groups appealed to Carondelet for admission into the congregation, including the Sisters St. Joseph of Lewiston, Idaho, who became part of the Los Angeles Province in 1925. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Georgia joined as a separate province in 1922 and became part of the St. Louis Province in 1961. The Sisters of St Joseph of Superior, Wisconsin joined our congregation in 1986, becoming part of the St. Paul Province.

The congregation established foundations in Hawaii in 1938, in Japan in 1956 and in Peru in 1962. These have flourished and attracted native-born members. The Hawaii community became a vice-province in 1956, the Japan and Peru communities in 1978.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet founded Fontbonne University in Clayton, Missouri and Carondelet High School in Concord, California. They also founded the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in San Diego in 1882. St. Joseph's Academy (St. Louis, Missouri) St. Joseph's Academy is a private, all-girls high school in St. Louis, Missouri, also founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. St. Joseph Academy, a girls' high school in Green Bay, Wisconsin, operated from 1898 until 1990, when it was merged with two boys' schools.

Sisters of Saint Joseph of Pennsylvania
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Saint Louis, MO Province
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Albany Province
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet – Los Angeles Province

Congregation of Saint Joseph

In 1854 Sisters were sent from the Bourg house in France to establish a house at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in the Diocese of Natchez.

In 1863 a novitiate was opened at New Orleans. After establishing a central house in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Sisters extended their ministry to the poor and suffering of Louisiana and Mississippi, opening schools, hospitals and an orphanage.

In 1893, Sisters from the New Orleans group went to Cincinnati, Ohio. They created a boarding residence for working girls known as the Sacred Heart Home. It later became known as Fontbonne Home. As they became established, the congregation established educational institutions for children and young women under their care.

In 1903, Sisters from the motherhouse in Bourg were sent to Argyle, Minnesota.

In 1907, the group in Argyle, Minnesota established a convent and school in Crookston, Minnesota In 1907 a convent was established at Superior, Wisconsin by seven Sisters from Cincinnati. Schools have since been opened among the French Canadians in Minnesota and Wisconsin

By 1962, the Bourg Congregation had six provinces, three in Europe and three in the United States, with missions in Africa and Latin America.

In July 1977, the six provinces voted to become two separate congregations, one based in Europe, the other in America. On November 30 1977, Rome officially declared the three American provinces to be a new Congregation in the Church: the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Medaille.[12] [13]

The name Medaille was chosen because it is the family name of the Jesuit priest who helped found the Sisters in 1650 and because the Sisters were geographically located in the north, central and southern areas of the United States. Sister Janet Roesener of Cincinnati, Ohio was chosen the first superior general.

In 1986 and in 1994 decisions were made to merge the three provinces into five regions headed by a Congregational Leadership Office consisting of a president and three general councilors, in Cincinnati. The five regions consist of Baton Rouge, Cincinnati, Crookston, Minnesota, New Orleans, and the Twin Cities.

In 2007, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Medaille and six other Sisters of Saint Joseph congregations in the central United States merged to form an entirely the new Congregation, which is now called the Congregation of Saint Joseph.

The seven founding congregations were the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago/Lagrange, Illinois; Detroit/Nazareth, Michigan; Fort Wayne/Tipton, Indiana; Wheeling, West Virginia; Wichita, Kansas and Medaille, with centers in Louisiana, Cincinnati and Minnesota. The Congregation had a total membership of some 900 vowed religious women and 548 non-vowed men and women associates when established in 2007. The Sisters number about 700 as of 2011.[14]

The founding formerly-diocesan congregations

Chicago/La Grange

The Sisters of St. Joseph were established in La Grange, Illinois, October 9, 1899, by two Sisters under Mother Stanislaus Leary, formerly superior of the diocesan community at Rochester, New York. On July 14, 1900, the cornerstone of the mother-house was laid. Currently the sisters sponsor Nazareth Academy, a Catholic co-educational high school in La Grange Park, Illinois. The school's four core values include Scholarship, Service, Spirit, and Unity. Sisters of Joseph of LaGrange


The Sisters of St. Joseph of the Diocese of Cleveland are chiefly engaged in the parochial schools. Sisters of Saint Joseph, Cleveland

Currently supporting

Initiated :

  • Providence House
  • Fontbonne House
  • West Side Catholic Center
  • West Side Catholic Shelter
  • Transitional Housing, Inc.
  • East Side Catholic Shelter

In 1889 Sisters of St. Joseph from the Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York established a new congregation at Kalamazoo, Michigan. The novitiate was transferred, in 1897, to Nazareth, a hamlet founded by the Sisters on a 400-acre (1.6 km2) farm. Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth Michigan

Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth Michigan

Initiated institutions
  • Nazareth College
  • Nazareth Academy
  • Barbour Hall
Fort Wayne

The Sisters of St. Joseph have a motherhouse at Tipton, Indiana.


In 1853 seven sisters from Carondelet, Missouri, opened a private orphanage and hospital in Wheeling, and in 1856 took possession of a building chartered by the Assembly of Virginia for a hospital. From 19 October, 1860, the community was independent of the St. Louis mother-house. During the Civil War the hospital was rented by the Government and the sisters enrolled in government service. After the war and the reorganization of the hospital on its present lines, the sisters extended their activities to various parts of the diocese Sisters of St. Joseph of Wheeling

The motherhouse was included in the Mount Saint Joseph listing on the National Register of Historic Places, added in 2008.[16][17]

Holy Family Child Care & Development

In August, 1887, four Sisters of St. Joseph were commissioned to go from Concordia, Kansas, to open a parochial school at Abilene, Kansas, at that time in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Leavenworth. The following year the Right Rev. L. M. Pink, Bishop of Leavenworth, decided that these Sisters should belong to his diocese exclusively, and in so doing they became the nucleus of a new diocesan congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, having their motherhouse established at Abilene, under the title of Mount St. Joseph's Academy.

The congregation increased in numbers and soon branched out, doing parochial school work throughout the diocese. In 1892 the name of the Diocese of Leavenworth was changed to Kansas City, Kansas, and for the time being the Sisters of St. Joseph were diocesan Sisters of the Diocese of Kansas City.

In 1896, when the re-division of the three Kansas dioceses, Concordia, Kansas City, and Wichita, was begun, Bishop Fink of Kansas City, to keep the Sisters of St. Joseph of his diocese within the limit of his jurisdiction, had their motherhouse transferred from Abilene to Parsons. But after the division was made the following year, Abilene was in the Concordia Diocese, and Parsons was in the Wichita diocese, and the mother-house of the Sisters of St. Joseph being in Parsons, the congregation belonged to the Wichita Diocese, having mission-houses in both the Diocese of Concordia and the Diocese of Kansas City.

In 1907 a colony of these Sisters opened a sanitarium at Del Norte, Colorado, in the Diocese of Denver. In 1910, the Sisters worked in the Diocese of Wichita and the Diocese of Leavenworth, and the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Missouri.

Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambery

In 1812 a colony of sisters was sent to Chambéry, in Savoy, France under Mother St. John Marcoux. In 1843 Mother Superior was assumed by Mother Félicité. More than eighty houses rose beneath her hand, and when, in 1861, a state normal school was opened at Rumilly, Savoy, France. it was placed in charge of the sisters

Meanwhile the Chambéry Sisters had been constituted a diocesan congregation, but as years went on a stronger administration became necessary. The rule was therefore revised to meet the requirements of a generalate, and papal approbation was granted in 1874 by rescript of Pius IX.

Under the new form of government the congregation is subject to a Superior General, whose term of office is six years and is divided into provinces, each possessing a novitiate. The novices, after two years probation, make annual vows for two years, after which they bind themselves by perpetual vows. The rule is based on that of St. Augustine.

Jane Sedgwick of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, appealed to Pope Leo XIII to send assistance in establish a Catholic school in western Massachusetts. At the request of the Congregation of Propaganda, and with the approval of the Bishop of Springfield, five sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambery arrived in Lee in 1885.

The novitiate was transferred to Hartford, Connecticut in 1898.

In 1902 many French houses of the congregation were closed by the Government, in consequence of which a large number of Sisters left for Denmark, Russia and the United States [18]

Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace (C.S.J.P.) were founded in 1884 by Margaret Anna Cusack (also known as Mother M. Francis Clare) to further the work of peace in the family, church and world. Under Cardinal Manning and Bishop Edward Gilpin Bagshawe, Cusack received approbation for the new religious congregation from Pope Leo XIII and the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace was founded in January, 1884, in the Diocese of Nottingham, England. This Congregation does not share any history or charism with the other Sisters of St. Joseph.

Today the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace has three provinces – Sacred Heart Province (England, Scotland, Ireland), St. Joseph's Province (New Jersey), and Our Lady Province (Oregon, Washington, Alaska). The Congregation's central offices are in Washington, D.C. The Sisters also have communities in El Salvador and Haiti.

Cusack's emphasis on human rights, especially women's rights, continues to impact the future direction of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Sisters and lay associates minister in the areas of health care, education, faith communities, social work, counseling, political advocacy, housing for women and children, retreat work and spiritual direction.[19]

Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange is among the youngest of the American congregations and traces its roots through the St. Joseph congregations of La Grange, Illinois; Concordia, Kansas; Rochester, New York; and Carondelet, Missouri.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange were established in 1912 by Mother Bernard Gosselin. She and eight sisters left LaGrange, Illinois, near Chicago to establish a school in Eureka, California. As the Congregation grew, the Sisters were better able to address more of the needs of the area. The 1918 flu epidemic presented a new challenge to the community. The Sisters responded as best they could at the time, but they realized that by establishing a hospital they could provide a health care service which would effectively address the personal, social and spiritual needs of the area. In 1920, the Sisters opened St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. Today the hospital is by far the largest medical facility on Coastal California north of its even larger medical facility located in Santa Rosa, California as well as others in Southern California.

By 1922, the Sisters were teaching in several Southern California areas and recognized that the community could better develop its ministries by moving the Motherhouse to Orange. The first ministries of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange were in education and health care. Schools and hospitals were staffed primarily by the Sisters and in the 1940s and 1950s the number of institutions directed by the Congregation increased steadily. In the 1940s the Sisters extended their work in health, education and religious instruction to the people of Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Today, the Congregation’s commitment to education is expressed in a variety of forms including elementary, secondary, university and other adult education. The commitment to extend the healing mission of Christ is expressed through acute care hospitals, rehabilitation programs, home health care, community education, primary care clinics, and wellness programs. The works of the Congregation have expanded, however, beyond education and health care to also include such things as helping new immigrants, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, and fostering spiritual development.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange are one of three sponsoring religious communities of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. They also have a special partnership with the Western American Province of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary dating back to the 1968 signing of the Marymount Accords when St. Joseph's College of Orange merged with Marymount College of Los Angeles and assumed the Marymount name. Five years later, Marymount College merged with Loyola University of Los Angeles as the school assumed its current name, Loyola Marymount University.

Independent diocesan congregations


In 1873 the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston opened their first school at Jamaica Plain, in the Archdiocese of Boston, and three years later established there a novitiate, which was transferred successively to Cambridge (1885), Brighton, and Canton (1902). The mother-house is still at Brighton. Sisters of Saint Joseph, Boston, MA


In the spring of 1856 the Right Rev. John Loughlin, first Bishop of Brooklyn, applied to the mother-house at Philadelphia for sisters, and two religious were named for the new mission, joined during the same year by a sister from Buffalo. St. Mary's Academy, Williamsburg, was opened on September 8, 1856, and in the following year a parochial school was inaugurated. In 1860 the mother-house, novitiate, and boarding school were removed to Flushing, Long Island, whence the activity of the sisters was gradually extended over the diocese. In 1903 the mother-house and novitiate were again transferred to Brentwood, New York, where an academy was opened the same year.


The Sisters of St. Joseph were introduced into the Diocese of Buffalo in 1854, when three sisters from Carondelet, St. Louis, made a foundation at Canandaigua, New York. Two years later one of these sisters was brought to Buffalo by Bishop Timon to assume charge of Le Couteulx St. Mary's Institution for the instruction of deaf mutes, which had lately been established. The novitiate was removed from Canandaigua to Buffalo in 1861. The community developed rapidly and soon spread through different parts of the diocese. By 1868 the sisters were sufficiently strong to direct their own affairs, and elected their own superior, thus forming a new diocesan congregation. In 1891 the mother-house and novitiate were removed to the outskirts of the city, where an academy was erected. On July 19, 1933 the sisters visited the small hamlet of Appleton, NY with Mr. Callahan of M&T Bank. He was interested in showing Mother Constansia Superior a piece of property that could possibly become their new summer retreat. They came across home built from red brick imported from Italy. The floor was made from wide board pine planks that at the time were popular and expensive. The woodwork, doors, and staircase were all made from black walnut. There was a then 90 year old log cabin right along Lake Ontario, and carrying such resemblance to the first American home of the Sists of St Joseph in St Louis was promptly named "Carondelet". The old farm house was perfect, and so their new summer retreat was established in Appleton.

Burlington, Vermont

In 1873 the Rev. Charles Boylan of Rutland (town), Vermont petitioned the mother-house of the Sisters of St. Joseph at Flushing, Long Island, for sisters to take charge of his school. Several sisters were sent, and a novitiate was opened at Rutland on October 15, 1876.


In 1883 four Sisters of St. Joseph arrived at Newton, Kansas, from Rochester, New York, and opened their first mission. After remaining there a year they located at Concordia, Kansas, in the fall of 1884, and established the first motherhouse in the West, in what was then the Diocese of Leavenworth. The congregation has hospitals and schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Dioceses of Marquette, Rockford, Kansas City, Omaha, Lincoln, and Concordia. The sisters currently so work in Brazil and New Mexico. Diocese of Concordia is now Diocese of Salina Sisters of St. Joseph Concordia KS

Erie, Pennsylvania

This congregation was founded in 1860 by Mother Agnes Spencer of Carondelet, Missouri, who, with two other sisters, took charge of St. Ann's Academy at Corsica, Pennsylvania, where postulants were admitted. In 1864 a hospital was opened at Meadville, and the sisters took charge of the parochial schools of that city. Villa Maria Academy was opened in 1892 and in 1897 was made the novitiate and mother house of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Erie diocese. Sisters of Saint Joseph, Erie, PA

Fall River

In 1902 nine Sisters of St. Joseph from the mother-house at Le Puy took charge of the school in the French parish of St-Roch, Fall River, Massachusetts. The accession of other members from the mother-house enabled the community to take charge of three other schools in the city attached to French parishes. In 1906 St. Theresa's Convent was formally opened as the provincial house of the community, which was legally incorporated in the same year, and a novitiate was established.

New Orleans

The Sisters of St. Joseph has a mother-house on Mirabeau Avenue in New Orleans. The compound was flooded during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and is now up for sale as they cannot afford to have it repaired. Letters have been sent to the Pope pleading for help, but no one has received a response.

As reported in the Times-Picayune, early in July 2006 the structure on Mirabeau Avenue was destroyed by a fire said by witnesses to have been caused by a lightning strike during a Summer thunderstorm.


In 1880 several sisters from the mother-house at Buffalo made a foundation at Watertown, New York, which was later strengthened by the accession of another sister from the Erie mother-house. From Watertown as a centre missions were opened in other parts of the diocese. Philadelphia Sisters of Saint Joseph Sisters Watertown NY


In 1847 the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, in response to an appeal of Bishop Kenrick, sent four members of the community to Philadelphia to take charge of St. John's Orphan Asylum, until that time under the Sisters of Charity.

The Know-Nothing spirit, which had but a short time previously led to the Philadelphia riots, to the burning and desecration of churches and religious institutions, was still rampant, and the sisters had much to suffer from bigotry and difficulties of many kinds. Shortly afterwards they were given charge of several parochial schools, and thus entered on what was to be their chief work in the coming years.

By the establishment, in October, 1858, under the patronage of St. John Neumann, of a mother-house at Mount St. Joseph, Chestnut Hill, the congregation in Philadelphia began to take a more definite development. When, in 1863, the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Louis formed a generalate, approved later by the Holy See, the congregation of Philadelphia, by the wish of the bishop, preserved its autonomy. During the Civil War, detachments of sisters nursed the sick soldiers in Camp Curtin and the Church Hospital, Harrisburg; later, under Surgeon General Smith, they had more active duty in the floating hospitals which received the wounded from the southern battle-fields. When the number of religious increased to between three and four hundred, and the works entrusted to them became so numerous and varied as to necessitate an organization more detailed and definite, steps were undertaken to obtain the papal approbation, which was received in 1895. Sisters of Saint Joseph Philadelphia, PA

For two thirds of the 1900s, the group was a powerhouse in the Philadelphia area supplying teachers to hundreds of elementary and secondary schools, educating generations of children and young adults. The trademark white triangle that was worn as part of the sisters' veil was present until 1974. The changes in life style and ministry that were common in Catholic orders of women in the late sixties took a little longer to catch up with this group who held on to convent living in traditional parish settings as well as a modified habit and veil up to the mid 80s.

From a membership high of close to 2,500 is the mid-sixties, the current 2010 membership is under 1,000 with most of the membership in full or partial retirement.

Charlotte Rigali, sister of former Philadelphia Archbishop Justin Cardinal Rigali, is a member of the St. Louis branch of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

  • Saint Joseph Academy McSherrystown, Pennsylvania
  • Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Flourtown, Pennsylvania
  • [21] Villa St Joseph
  • Saint Mary By-The-Sea Retreat House in Cape May Point, NJ
  • [22] Norwood-Fontbonne Academy
  • Holy Family Academy (Bayonne, NJ) [23]
  • [22] SSJ Center for Spirituality Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia
  • Academy Village in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania
  • Bethlehem Retirement Village, Flourtown, PA
  • Saint Joseph Village, Hanover, PA
  • Sisters of Saint Joseph Welcome Center, Philadelphia (Kensington), PA [3]
  • The Cecilian Center for Earth, Arts and Spirit - Philadelphia (Mount Airy) PA
  • Chestnut Hill College, in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania

In 1869, at the petition of the pastor of Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, three sisters were sent there to open a day-school and a boarding-school for boys. assist in 23 schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Dioceses of Pittsburg, Cleveland, and Columbus. In 1901 the mother-house was transferred to Baden, Pennsylvania. Sisters of Saint Joseph Baden PA

Rochester, New York

In 1854 four Sisters of St. Joseph came from St. Louis, at the invitation of Bishop Timon of Buffalo, to Canandaigua, NY. In 1868, the Diocese of Rochester was created, and the community divided creating 2 communities, one in Buffalo and the other in Rochester, now with its own mother-house and novitiate at St. Mary's Boys' Orphan Asylum, later transferred to the Nazareth Academy, Rochester. Sisters of Saint Joseph Rochester

St. Augustine, Florida

At the close of the American Civil War, the most Reverend Augustin Verot, Bishop of Savannah and Administrator Apostolic of Florida, visited his native city of LePuy where he challenged the Sisters of St. Joseph to come to St. Augustine. In blunt and realistic fashion he wrote: “I have five to six hundred thousand blacks without education, without religion, and without baptism for whom I wish to do something. . . . There is an immense field open to the zeal of our holy daughters, and if I do not mistake it, the good God is giving you a great grace by this choice . . . “

With the humble courage of their patron, Saint Joseph, many sisters volunteered. The chosen eight were Sister Marie Sidonie Rascle, Superior: and Sisters Marie Julie Roussel, Marie Josephine Deleage, Marie Clemence Freycenon, St. Pierre Borie, Marie Joseph Cortial, Julie Clotilde Arsac, and Marie Celenie Joubert. Expecting to encounter the reality of deprivations, these brave women ventured forth on a perilous journey wholly dependent on God. Existing correspondence reveals their eagerness to embrace any sacrifice for the love of Jesus, who endured much more for them. They arrived in Florida at Picolata Landing on the shores of the St. Johns River, September 2, 1866.

The sisters from France adjusted heroically to a different language, culture, and climate with joy and faith. They welcomed new members as they mourned the disproportionate number of those who succumbed to disease and unhealthy conditions. At the direction of Bishop Verot, the sisters were sent to six missions throughout Florida and Georgia. In their endeavors the sisters always tried to meet the needs of the sick and poor. From the outset, however, there were obstacles to fulfilling their primary ministry to black people. And owing to the departure of the Sisters of Mercy from the city, the education of the whites also devolved on the new community. In fact, after ten years, the sisters were teaching many more whites than blacks.

By 1876 the sisters in Georgia had been separated from those in France, but the sisters in Florida were established as a province of LePuy. At the close of the century, provincial government was abruptly terminated by Bishop John Moore. This painful event brought about the establishment of the Diocesan Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of St. Augustine, Florida, in 1899.

To maintain their charitable works and to provide self-support, the sisters erected academies. These institutions served as centers of catechetical work until they were relinquished and replaced by parochial and diocesan schools. Being women of ingenuity, the sisters augmented their resources by such means as lace-making and private lessons in art, music, and language.

The sisters tried to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in their two-fold commitment: discernment of the needs of the times and readiness to answer the call of the Church. During the years of rapid expansion in the developing Church of Florida, and with the support of Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, the majority of the sisters gave their time to education, which included instruction of students who were deaf, blind, developmentally disabled, or otherwise handicapped. Gradually they became more involved in the multi-faceted aspects of health care; and they assumed work with the aging, unwed mothers, and migrants.

In the turmoil of this enormous growth of the Church, the sisters were pressed into early and heavy responsibility. They met these demands with heroic efforts. For many years the Congregation was called to begin new works only to relinquish them as other religious congregations arrived in the state. Drawn to the constant “more” of Jean-Pierre Medaille, the Congregation opened schools in Puerto Rico in the fifties. Two decades later in 1976, the sisters in Puerto Rico became an independent institute.

Sisters of St. Joseph cherish the heritage of spirit which spans more than three hundred years. They continue to draw their strength from their faith, their hope, and their vision of love.[24]

St. Louis

In the year 1834 Most Rev. Joseph Rosati of St. Louis, Missouri, called at the mother-house of the Sisters of St. Joseph at Lyon and asked Mother St. John Fontbonne, the superior, to send a colony of her daughters to America. The financial aid necessary was obtained through the Countess de]a Roche Jacquelin. Arrangements were soon perfected, and on 17 January, 1836, six sisters sailed from Havre and, after a perilous voyage of forty-nine days, reached New Orleans, where they were met by the Bishop of St. Louis and Rev. Timon, afterwards Bishop of Buffalo. They arrived at St. Louis on 25 March.

The house, a small log cabin, which was to be the central or mother-house of the future congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, was located at Carondelet, a small town six miles (10 km) south of St. Louis. At the time the sisters arrived at St. Louis, this humble house was occupied by the Sisters of Charity, who there cared for a few orphans soon after transferred to a new building. While waiting for or their home, they received a call from Cahokia, Illinois, where a zealous Vincentian missionary desired the help of the sisters in his labours among the French and Creole population of that section.

Three religious volunteered for this mission. The people among whom the sisters laboured in St. Louis were poor and rude, and apparently destitute of any taste for either religion or education. These obstacles seemed but to increase the zeal of the sisters, and by degrees postulants were received, parochial schools and asylums opened, and new works begun in various parts of the diocese. As early as 1847 foundations were made in other sections of the United States.

In 1837 the first American member of the order, Ann Eliza Dillon, entered the novitiate, proving of great advantage to the struggling community, with her fluency in French and English. She died, however, four years later. The community increasing in proportion to its more extended field of labour, a commodious building was erected to answer the double purpose of novitiate and academy, the latter being incorporated in 1853 under the laws of the State of Missouri. of St. Joseph of Carondelet of Saint Louis Province

  • Ascension Health
  • Avila University, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Fontbonne University, St. Louis, Missouri
  • St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Nazareth Living Center
  • St. Teresa Academy, Kansas City, Missouri
  • St. Joseph Academy, St. Louis, Missouri

The Sisters of St. Joseph were established at Savannah in 1867, in charge of the boys' orphanage, and soon afterwards were constituted an independent diocesan congregation. In 1876 the orphanage was transferred to Washington, Georgia, and with it the mother-house of the congregation. In 1912 the Sisters opened an academy for women in Augusta which became Mount Saint Joseph and eventually moved the mother house to Augusta Georgia. In 1922 the Sisters voted to incorporate themselves into the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet becoming the Augusta Province and no longer a diocesan congregation.


In September, 1880, seven Sisters of St. Joseph were sent from Flushing, Long Island, to take charge of a parochial school at Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. They were followed, two years later, by seven Sisters for Webster, and in 1883 by twelve more for the cathedral parish school in Springfield. In 1885 the Springfield mission was constituted the motherhouse of an independent diocesan congregation. Sisters of St. Joseph Springfield



In 1852 five sisters from the mother-house at Toronto established a foundation at Hamilton, where they at once opened an orphanage and began their work in the parochial schools of the city. On the erection of the Diocese of Hamilton in 1856, the community became a separate diocesan congregation, and a few months later a novitiate was established at Hamilton. By the passage of the Separate Schools Bill in 1856 the sisters were given control of the education of the Catholic children of the city. The congregation gradually extended its activities to other parts of the diocese. Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto Hamilton, Ontario


The community of Sisters of St. Joseph at London was founded in 1868 by five sisters from the mother-house at Toronto, who opened an orphan asylum the following year. On 18 December 1870, the congregation became independent, with a novitiate of its own, and on 15 February 1871, the Sisters of St. Joseph of London, Ontario, were legally incorporated. Several missions were opened in various parts of the diocese, and in 1888 a hospital was established at London, to which was attached a training school for nurses. Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto London, Ontario


In 1890 several sisters from the mother-house at Toronto established a house at Peterborough, which became in turn the nucleus of a new congregation. They work in the Dioceses of Peterborough and Sault Ste-Marie. Sisters of St. Joseph of Peterborough


In 1921, in response to a request from Bishop Ryan for teachers to staff the rural areas of the Ottawa Valley schools. In 1946, they opened their first hospitals and Homes for the Aged in western Canada. By 1964, they were able to establish a mission in Peru which is still operating today with a growing community of Peruvian Sisters. Sisters of St. Joseph of Pembroke, Ontario

Sault Ste. Marie

Canadian Sisters of St. Joseph - Sault-Ste-Marie


The mother-house of the Sisters of St. Joseph at Toronto was established from Le Puy, France, in 1851. The mother house is at Morrow Park in north Toronto. The sisters taught in many schools across Canada since their establishment in the country. In Toronto, some of their schools included: St. Joseph's Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School, St. Joseph's College School, St. Joseph's Islington, and St. Joseph's Commercial. They also established St. Michael's Hospital and St. Joseph's Hospital, and for many years ran the Sacred Heart Orphanage and the House of Providence for poor persons, among many other charities. In higher education, the sisters established St. Joseph's College in the University of St. Michael's College.


In 1867, the Australian Mary MacKillop set up an order named the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, with Rev. Julian Tenison Woods. Although Mary MacKillop (St Mary of the Cross) was the first, and to date, the only Australian to be Canonised, her order (the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart) is in no way related to the Sisters of St. Joseph founded by Jean-Pierre Médaille in Le Puy, France in 1650. However, Julian Tenison Woods had visited the Sisters in Le Puy earlier in his life. It is believed that those Sisters inspired the concept that he had with St Mary of the Cross [Mary MacKillop] to created an Australian group of women dedicated both to the Australian conditions and to God.

The Sisters started by the Rev Fr Julian Tenison Woods and Mary MacKillop split into two and are found throughout Australia, including Tasmania and New Zealand. The Federation of Sisters of St Joseph, once known as the black Sisters of St Joseph are those sisters who chose to remain true to the Bishop of there area rather than join Mary and The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with there rather 'unknown' style of leadership called central government; that is where the Superior Sister had the main control over her sisters and what and where they thought. Mary MacKillop's sisters donned a brown habit and where thus known as the Brown Josephites.

All the Congregations of Sisters of St Joseph in Australia and New Zealand realise that their mission and charism (spirit) have always remained the same and are in constant efforts to reunite and show all of their common values.

At the same time these congregations of Sisters are connecting with Sisters of St Joesph throughout the world and making the link between the first congregation at Le Puy and the world wide congregations of Sisters of St Joseph we have today.

There is a convent at Lochinvar, New South Wales near Newcastle. Yet the mother house for Josephite's in Australia is the property at 9 Mount St, North Sydney. Which was purchased by St Mary of the Cross at the Pope's request.

United Kingdom

There are eight houses in the United Kingdom, under the provincial house and novitiate, which was founded in 1864, at Llantarnam Abbey in Cwmbran in South Wales. The congregation now numbers 60, in charge of 10 elementary day and boarding-schools, with an attendance of about 2000. In Scotland at St Mary's College, Blairs, 15 sisters have charge of the [household] arrangements and work of the college.


The Indian foundation was made in 1906. The provincial house and novitiate are located in Visakhapatnam (once known as Waltair), Andhra Pradesh.


Notable members

  • Sister Carol Anne O'Marie – mystery novel writer
  • Sister Helen Prejean – author of Dead Man Walking
  • Mary Shaver, formerly Sister Doris – author of The Naked Nun
  • Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ - theologian, scholar, author of Quest for the Living God[25]


External links

In general

North America

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