By: Sr. Patty Johnson

Some of our newest members at the site of the landing of the first sisters. Left to right: Jennifer, Tram, Sara, Sally, Chizuru, and Monique.Twelve of us gathered in St. Louis to learn about our early history in the United States and engage in an in-depth reflection on community living. This included second year novices, temporary professed, and seasoned members of three Federation congregations.

The group began by exploring our Sisters of St. Joseph roots with a visit to the site of the landing of the first sisters in St. Louis, as well as the “Old Cathedral” where they gathered for prayer. From there we pilgrimaged to Cahokia where three of our first sisters began their ministry in the U.S. John Reed, whose family has been in the parish for many generations, helped us understand the environment in which our early sisters would have lived. He had new information that his ongoing research has uncovered. A new aerial view shows us what the original convent looked like and where it was located, though it has since been torn down. Reed also shared that he had recently seen the restored bell sent by Mother St. John Fontbonne, which is currently at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet-St. Louis motherhouse. He is certain that the one in the bell tower at Cahokia Holy Family Parish is the second bell sent by Mother St. John that has previously been considered lost or destroyed for years.

Tram rings the bell at the church in Cahokia. Only Sisters of St. Joseph are invited to ring the bell because that was one of the duties of the sisters in the parish.The tour then returned to Carondelet, St. Louis where the sisters toured the Motherhouse, focusing on the early history of the sisters. Sr. Mary McGlone shared some of her material about the earliest sisters that will be available in her new book, coming out early next year.

Using the theme, “Community Living: The Impossible Dream,” Sr. Miriam Ukeritis offered a combination of input and sharing among participants about the joys and struggles of community living. All participated fully in an enriching sharing.

There were many opportunities for sharing good times and deep conversations together throughout the weekend.

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


Our group of 12 were blessed at the log cabin church in Cahokia.The original convent in Cahokia before it was torn down.