By: Andrea Pearson Tande

What does it mean to be an Associate? How do individual congregations welcome new Associates? How do we find support when things don’t go well? These are some of the questions that Federation Associate leaders reflected on together over the course of a four month online series.

Beginning in August and lasting through November 2019, about 20 Associate Leaders from across the Federation met once a month to participate in a discussion shaped by the Life Long Formation Committee’s 2019 handbook, “Initial Formation for Associates.” Laura Rossmann, Associate of Carondelet- St. Louis, was our skillful facilitator. She helped to shape conversations around topics such as inquiry and application; candidacy program and curriculum, discernment and commitment, and CSSJ Associate identity.

The planning committee had two goals in mind for this program. One was to support Associate leaders in their work and offer them some new resources. The other was to help explore and build a stronger sense of Associate identity in the Federation, especially as Federation governance structures evolve and Associates ready themselves to step into leadership roles.

Over the course of the series, leaders had a chance to ask questions of one another and share some best practices. It was clear that although individual congregations approach the specifics of formation in different ways, we share a commitment to integrating mission and relationship throughout the Associate formation process. We gained some good ideas from one another as well as from the handbook, which all agreed is an excellent resource that will be concretely helpful in our work [Editor’s Note: the Initial Formation for Associates Handbook can be found in the members-only section of the CSSJ Federation website].

In our last session, we spoke more specifically about Associate identity. We agreed that many individual Associates may not feel a strong connection to the Federation right now. However, as Associate leaders we can help shape that relationship going forward through information and opportunity. We constructed some next steps for the group, including an online meeting with Federation staff to help learn more about the benefits of Associate membership for folks in our congregations, as well as the creation of a “Federation resource information packet” to help support leaders as they work to build awareness of the Federation in their individual Associates at home. We will also work to refine and affirm an Associate Identity Statement, which outlines our common identity as Associates in the U.S. Federation. We hope to live into these words with intention.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this series possible, especially skilled facilitator Laura Rossmann (Carondelet-St. Louis) and logistics organizer Kerry Rusak (Philadelphia). Thanks also to all the members of the Associate Charism Companion Planning Team (which is always open to new members!): Kay Komotos (Carondelet-St. Louis), Kerry Rusak (Philadelphia), Judy Swett (Boston), Kate Theriot (Congregation of St. Joseph), Kathy Tighe (Boston), Andrea Pearson Tande (Carondelet-St. Paul), and Sr. Rita Woehlcke (Philadelphia).

Associate Identity Description

Following the call to universal holiness, we Associates of the Sisters of St. Joseph are people of faith who, after a period of intentional learning and prayer, make a public commitment to live the charism of unifying, inclusive love within the context of our ordinary lives and responsibilities. We are committed to prayer, spiritual growth, and social justice. Along with our Sister partners, we move always toward profound love of God and neighbor without distinction and our living the charism is central to the vitality of the mission in the world today. We are invested in working together to create a strong future for our collective community by sharing resources, empowering future leaders, and supporting the Federation.

[Andrea Pearson Tande is a St. Joseph Worker (2002-2003), a Consociate, and currently works as Co-director of Consociate Services for the St. Paul Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.]