Stirring the Fire

For twenty years, the CSJ community in St. Paul has gathered for an annual retreat called “Stirring the Fire.”

This tradition is an echo of what occurred in the earliest Sister of St. Joseph communities in France– from founding documents, we know that they met at the end of each year to reflect on the year that had passed, and again on New Year’s Day to make plans and promises for the new year ahead. Also, in these early days, the Sisters would bank the fire in the hearth overnight, heaping the coals so there might still be some hot embers in the morning that could be stirred into flame. At the Stirring the Fire retreat, we draw on this imagery of stirring the embers into flame, reenergizing our spirit and community, as we look ahead into the new year.

On January 20, a lively and intergenerational group gathered for the 2024 Stirring the Fire retreat. This hybrid event had over 100 participants who participated in person, online over zoom, and at Carondelet Village. It celebrated the many ways that the CSJ mission is lived in the world. Three storytellers– one Sister, one Friend of St. Joseph, and one Partner in Mission– shared stories of the ways that the CSJ mission has been present in their lives. People reflected in small groups, both in person and online, on how the CSJ mission is lived in their own life. There was a ritual and blessing that celebrated all the ways that the CSJ mission has been lived in the world by the community since arriving in Minnesota in 1851. This is ambitious, ongoing project seeks to capture all the roles and occupations that have spread the CSJ mission. Finally, Each person was encouraged to make a “generous promise” to ourselves and to the CSJ community. Generous promises are a perennial part of all Stirring the Fire retreats. They represent an action, a commitment, or a call that we feel we take on in this new year for the good of the community. We ended by ritualizing these promises by tying strips of cloth, on which we had written our promise, to a collection of branches. It created a beautiful, collective symbol of all our commitments.

At the Stirring the Fire retreat, we draw on this imagery of stirring the embers into flame, reenergizing our spirit and community, as we look ahead into the new year.