Early Beginnings: Le Puy, France 1650
If every age has its own paradoxes, seventeenth century France in which we had our beginnings was certainly no exception. On the one hand, it was an age of hierarchy and order, a period dominated by classical harmony and external propriety. On the other hand, this century had seen thirty years of war (1618-1648) which left in its wake a population reduced to a struggle for existence. Widows and orphans, especially, suffered from famine, disease, and poverty.
In the midst of this misery, the Spirit brought together the Jesuit missionary, Jean Pierre Medaille, and a group of women who shared a compassion for their neighbors and a conviction that their own salvation, service to those in need, and proclaiming the glory of God were one and the same.
Thus it was that, under the spiritual direction of Father Medaille, these women gathered in small groups to help one another in their quest for God and to reach out to the suffering people around them.
He wished to form a new kind of religious community: a group of women who would profess simple vows, live in small groups, work to support themselves, have no property or social prestige, no patron, no external appearances or special works, and who would live and dress simply but in a manner appropriate to their circumstances.
They would dedicate themselves to the most perfect love of God with their feet in the street to serve their neighbor in all the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, without distinction.
- It was a diverse group, these women who gathered with Father Medaille.
- Francoise Eyraud hardly knew the alphabet, but at 39 was administrator of a hospital for orphans in the Montferrand district of Le Puy. She served as superior of the new community for 30 years.
- Claudia Chastel, a war widow, was the only one of the group who could read and write.
- Marguerite Burdier, 26, could read and was learning to write.
- Anna Chraleyer, 46, was the oldest of the group.
- Anna Brun was 15 and an orphan.
- Anna Vey was also 15 and possibly an orphan.
A story with an endless beginning
It began in 1650....
Since then, three centuries have passed Three centuries of history designing three series of events
Each calling us to pursue a moment when all seemed lost each one giving birth to almost nothing apparently.
In the 17th century..
Some simple and generous women who had only their faith as their wealth joined together to experience their life in God. Their life together resulted in such a need to share that they could not help turning themselves to a world in distress in order to share the experience of their meeting God and his loving communication with all. Thus there appeared the first communities of Sisters of St. Joseph who very quickly grew and multiplied.
The violence of the revolutioncaused all which had been born of that first animation to collapse. But that passage through trial and death was not definitive. Other women renewed the same steps: living in common their experience of the Christian life and communicating to others the experience of the love of god which became a re-creation for themselves and for others. Something new revealed itself in their life and in the world.
Through a crisis which shakes humanity, the world is in passage to the future. Our industrial and technological society can still be converted to new ways, open to new countries, to new tasks and in every situation to a new communication of life. For the Sisters of St. Joseph as for the world, the future can still be restored. Passing beyond fare to joy, like the women who discovered the empty tomb of the Risen Jesus, Sisters of St. Joseph have the certitude: everything can still be done, for Jesus is always at work among us.
Thus, history is always beginning again.
Spirituality of the Sisters of Saint Joseph
Our spirituality is a basic Gospel call to love of God and neighbor. It is characterized by a deep relationship with the persons of the Blessed Trinity and with Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a human community of love.
The distinguishing mark of our Congregation is simplicity, and we try to accept Gods invitation to grow both individually and together in humility and charity. The spirit of the Congregation urges us to resist complacency, to nourish mutual healing and to foster reconciliation. It animates us to move always toward closer union with God and neighbor.
We share a rich spiritual heritage with other Sisters of Saint Joseph throughout the world, and work together to find inspiration for our 21st-century lives in the writings that are part of our heritage. We ponder the words of our early documents, hoping to become by Gods grace the Congregation of the great love of God
To strive to bring about the total union of ourselves and others with God, union of others among themselves and with us, but all in Jesus and in God his Father.
It is to a world suffering from poverty and alienation that we as sisters of St. Joseph must respond -for our Charism is one of establishing and building unity where it is lacking. Rooted in the Trinity which both realizes and symbolizes the deepest form of unity which both creates bonds and brings forth life, we are called to be the sign and source of unity for all those with whom we live and work.
Coat of Arms
THE SILVER CROSS on the gules is based upon the arms of Savoy in which is located the Mother house of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery.
THE PLATE depicts the Holy Eucharist, which the founder desired to be the model of the institute.
THE KEYS signifies the spiritual authority of our Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, in which is located the General House of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who are members of a Papal Congregation.
THE FLEUR-de-LIS represents France where the Congregation was founded in 1650.
A CARPENTERS SQUARE stands for Saint Joseph, Patron of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
THE STAR represents the Blessed Virgin, under whose protection, the congregation is placed.