“Celebration” is a fitting word for this season when we have much to celebrate.

On March 19, we gathered for the Feast of St. Joseph and to recognize this year’s Jubilarians, inviting friends, families, and the CSJ community into the blessing and celebration.

This year, 21 Sisters will celebrate anniversaries ranging from 25 to 80 years. We also will joyously celebrate the anniversaries of 12 Consociates.

For Lori True, CSJ’s Director of Ritual and Liturgy, the Feast of St. Joseph and Jubilarian celebration are deeply important and moving events. “We remember how large we are, with all the different provinces,” she says. “We call upon the great cloud of witnesses, on whose shoulders we stand. As we retell the story of Sisters coming up the river and celebrate the renewal of our vows, we recommit to our charism.” True especially looks forward to singing “Rise Up!,” a piece she wrote that encapsulates the CSJ way:

“As we raise up all the memories we hold dear: our shared adventures, bold endeavors, sacred stories from our birth. May the brave ones who had led us year by year be our witness, compel and lift us from the waters of re-birth.”

In preparation for these celebrations, we asked Sisters and Consociates who are celebrating a Jubilarian to reflect on the joyous moments and crucial work they have engaged in as members of the CSJ community.

Living the CHARISM

Many Sisters and Consociates have relished the opportunity to work on important issues as they strive to live the CSJ mission. Sr. Lilly Long cites her time in the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas when the CSJ community was invited to work with pregnant immigrant women. “My immediate response was an excited ‘Can I go?’,” she says. “I had a feeling of being like Elizabeth when Mary greeted her. My soul leaped within me. I moved to Annunciation House in El Paso and have been passionately engaged with the work of Annunciation House and immigrants since then.”

Sr. Ansgar Holmberg has found joy in illustrating for children. “You never know how or if a child may find a bit of themselves in the picture and perhaps grow a little,” she says. Sr. Brigida Cassady helped to establish Sisters Care, a ministry for elderly people who wanted to remain in their homes; Sr. Joan Groschen eagerly joined in that work. Srs. Mary Charlene O’Keeffe and Carol Podlasek taught dozens of children in Province schools over many years, examples of the enduring impact CSJs have had in education.

Sr. Irene O’Neill founded Sisters Rising Worldwide, an innovative technology platform that connects the more than 650,000 Sisters doing life-changing work in 190 countries. “Sisters are trusted eyewitnesses, skilled change agents,” she says. “They work to eradicate human rights violations; they are teachers, organizers, philanthropists, care givers, knowledge workers, spiritual resources and Sisters are the most prolific movement of, for, and by women in the history of the world.”

Our Jubilarian Consociates, too, have found fulfillment in work related to the CSJ mission. Joan Wittman spent 28 years as a member of the Justice Commission, work she says has been the most “fulfilling, meaningful and important aspect of these past 30 years as a CSJ consociate.” She particularly has appreciated the platform as a place to work on the Equal Rights Amendment. Anita S. Duckor co-founded Growing Community Roots, a nonprofit that raises funds for schools in Kenya so they can provide safe water, toilets, and washrooms that reduce the spread of diseases. The nonprofit also supports a community garden and tree farm that is addressing deforestation.

Michelle Moran says that she has been able to work on issues of marginalization and justice for the LGBTQ+ community. “That has been a blessing for me to work with others on an issue so dear and personal,” she says. Betty Schindler recalls working with a Congolese resident at Sarah’s…An Oasis for Women on her Minnesota nursing board exams. “I worked with her two times weekly for months,” she says. “I will always remember the call I got at work one morning when she learned that she passed. She was now an RN. We were all
ecstatic. She went on to work at the care facility that so lovingly cared for our family members as they aged.”

Learning through Community and Service

Sr. Bernadette Newton says the CSJ community “brought out the best in me and made me a better teacher and person.” Over the years, she has served as a mentor for many new teachers, imparting what she learned from the children themselves. “I’ve never forgotten the day a child said to me, ‘Children are real people in front of you, they just aren’t big,’” she says. “That really touched me.”

Sr. Marian Walstrom, also a longtime teacher, shares this: “Life is a journey; the invitation is there to grow, to be more compassionate, loving and understanding. The CSJ community has offered me opportunities and encouragement to be more than I thought I could be. The community allows us to think out loud, pursue things we know need to be done, and learn through that.”

For Sr. Ann Diehl, she is still discovering. “What am I called to do is still going on,” she says. “Who am I in the world? What’s my sense of meaning and purpose? Every day is another day to try to respond to God’s call.”

Finding a Life-Giving Spiritual Home

For so many, the CSJ community has been a life-giving spiritual home for years. “What drew me to CSJ community was the opportunity to grow spiritually in the mission and to pray, contribute, and build relationships in meaningful, enriching ways,” says Sr. Jill Underdahl. “All that I have learned and experienced has deepened my faith in the Sacred Mystery and expanded my heart. I am grateful for the wisdom and support I receive from the young who have largely been part of my ministry to the elders and, especially, among those who are now part of our great CSJ cloud of witnesses.”

Sr. Mary Lamski remembers a happy day in 1984 when she celebrated her 25th anniversary while serving as Director of Campus Ministry and Pastoral Administrator of the St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center. She invited family, friends, Sisters, students, faculty, ecumenical clergy, and townspeople to celebrate with her at the University of River Falls, Wisconsin.
“It was full of music, prayer, liturgical dance by the students at the Mass, followed by a pot-luck supper reception and then a family dance of everybody with everybody,” she says. “I’ll never forget that very happy and most amazingly blessed gathering!”

Sr. Althea Johns says, “As I transferred to the CSJ community, I realized I have oh-so-many sisters. I haven’t met a
CSJ yet I didn’t like or love.” And as Sr. Margaret Brown says succinctly: “Covenant, commitment, and community: that summarizes my 60 years as a CSJ.”

In conversations with fellow Sisters, our 80-year Jubilarian, Sr. Mary Charlene O’Keeffe, shared this simple but profound expression of joy: “I am grateful that God has been so very good to me all these years as a Sister of St. Joseph.”

As we raise up all the memories we hold dear: our shared adventures, bold endeavors, sacred stories from our birth. May the brave ones who had led us year by year be our witness, compel and lift us from the waters of re-birth.