By: Sr. Patty Johnson

Leaders from the different Canadian congregations listen attentively to one of the speakers.Earlier this month Sisters Joan Gallagher and Patty Johnson attended the Canadian Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph Annual Board Meeting, where the theme was "deepening relationships." There are three congregations in the Canadian Federation and two of them had elections this year so this gathering of leaders really was a time for forming some new and deepening relationships. Together they prayed, talked, listened, ate and socialized for two and a half days.

They began the deepening by sharing the meaning of their new Congregational Focus or Mission Statements. All three had an emphasis on relationship and structure. The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph In Canada (the combined four congregations of Hamilton, London, Pembroke and Peterborough) statement calls the congregation to deeper engagement of its members in sharing responsibility so that decision- making can remain decentralized. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie expressed their desire to live out of a contemplative stance. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto want to explore and experiment with new models of governance and leadership on all levels including new models of community living.

The meeting was held at Invermara, a beautiful property of the Toronto Sisters of St. Joseph.It was obvious that each congregation is preparing for a changing future but each is doing it with a particular lens. Toronto emphasizes having a prophetic voice for justice. The Sault Ste. Marie sisters — through their engagement with First Nations peoples — continue to emphasize healing and reconciliation through vulnerability. Ecology seems to be the lens through which the Sisters of St. Joseph In Canada view all aspects of their lives.

This valuable sharing led the participants to continue to explore ways that they can enhance their connections and relationships with each other. 

The Canadian Federation has a vital committee structure and offices that binds the activities of the congregations together. Reports were provided by the Ecology, Vocation, Archives committees and the Blue Communities Project and Office for Systemic Justice. The Ecology and Vocation Committees and the Blue Communities Project provide programs to raise the consciousness of the sisters and the public. Their Office of Systemic Justice aims to shift public opinion on a range of subjects including indigenous rights, poverty, care of the land/water, climate change and human trafficking issues.

Sr. Mary Ann (left) and Sr. Loretta Manzara, the Canadian Federation Executive Director.The leaders also heard from their Associates' groups, the Global Coordinating Group, International Center, and a presentation about what is happening within the U.S. Federation. 

Our Thursday morning prayer began with a quote from Sr. Constance Fitzgerald, OCD that stated, "We have got to open ourselves to the challenge of living through Jesus Christ into the vibrant life of Trinitarian communion and allow this radiant pattern, this orientation toward relationship, to permeate and transform our consciousness." The Canadian Federation Leadership lived this prayer throughout their time together.


[Sr. Patty Johnson is the executive director of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph]