By: Sr. Patty Johnson
We are one. The emotions were palpable at this year’s meeting of the Global Coordinating Group — the gathering of Sister of St. Joseph Federation Directors and International Congregation leaders. Butterflies were a part of the décor and there was no doubt that we found our wings and flew high this year. The U.S. was represented by Sisters Patty Johnson and Mary Elizabeth Nelsen (Orange).
Our prayer calendar has been a global success with sisters, associates and friends from around the world praying for the work in one of the 46 countries each week in which Sisters of St. Joseph are present. The Canadian Federation will be issuing a revised calendar shortly. We will continue to send reminders through social media about where we are and what the sisters are doing in that country. Also, our new statistics are in. Globally there are 7,912 Sisters of St. Joseph and 5,642 associates. We finally have found the will and the way to update these statistics annually through the International Center.
On December 30, we will celebrate the 350th anniversary of the death of Jean Pierre Medaille, SJ. Sisters around the world are planting trees (we already passed the 350th tree). Each U.S. Congregation is encouraged to plant a tree and take a photo of it. You can send the photo to the U.S. Federation (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will forward it on to the Italian Federation who is planning a special way to display all the photos.
Additonally, we also have a new priority at our NGO at the United Nations. Globally, we will focus our advocacy efforts at the UN on access to clean water and sanitation. This is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are happy to partner with the UN and have this global focus. The Canadian Federation has been giving this major focus for the last two years and knows what a difference it makes.
Intercultural connections among our younger sisters continues to flourish as we offer opportunities for them to gather. This year our U.S. novices have connected with other Sister of St. Joseph novices for sharing of the heart. So far we have met with novices from Haiti and Oslo, Norway and have an upcoming meeting with novices from India. Last year U.S. sisters attended a Latin America gathering in Brazil. We hope to have younger members from Latin America and the Caribbean join Tending the Flame this spring.
The desire to connect with young people seems to be a priority for sisters around the world. Inviting them into our convents for prayer and sharing, sponsoring programs for them, and trying to hear what they need seems to be happening in many places. Attending to the outcomes of the Youth Synod in Rome and implementing it in our homes is an emerging trend.
The Global Coordinating Group has recognized that there is an emerging presence of laity in our work. They have formed a subcommittee to further discuss the role of laity in our global efforts. They will be broadly consulting with lay partners over the next 18 months and reporting back at the next Global Coordinating Group on next steps.
The Italian Federation is inviting us to join their work in Amazonia, Congo, or Chad where we might be able to form an international congregational experience. This would be open to youth volunteers, perhaps even being a second-year opportunity for volunteering through the St. Joseph Worker program.
We are thinking and acting with a global view. It is truly momentous.
[Sr. Patty Johnson is executive director of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph]