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I ran into Sr. Mary McGlone who is writing the US history for the Sisters of St Joseph for the Federation and she shared an interesting story about her research this week.  Here it is. Sr. Patty Johnson

“Are you writing the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph?”  In the beginning I answered that question in the affirmative.  After a lot of research, I have decided that I need a new way to respond.  Here’s why.  I spent this afternoon at an academic library in St. Louis that has great Catholic resources.  There in the process of trying to get some good juicy tidbits about Father Jacques Fontbonne I found very interesting “myth-information” about how the Sisters of St. Joseph ended up coming to the U.S.A.

In one heavy tome (I mean at least 7 pounds) I read the following:

“In 1834, the Right Rev. Joseph Rosati, bishop of St. Louis, being in France in quest of co-laborers for the works of his vast missionary field, called at the Mother-House of the sisters of St. Joseph at Lyons, and earnestly begged Mother S.t John Fontbonne, the Superior, to send to America a colony of her devoted daughters.” (The Catholic Church in the United States of America copyright 1914).

 Hmm…Bishop Rosati left Europe in 1816 as a young missioner, not to return until shortly before he died in 1843…

Another version of the story came from a more recent publication, The History of the Archdiocese of St. Louis (copyright 1917).  In this account,

 “In 1834, Bishop Rosati, through Father Charles Cholleton, received an offer from Mother Fontbonne to send a colony of Sisters of St. Joseph to his diocese.  Father John Odin who visited Lyons in the same year, reminded her of this offer.”

Well, to the best of our knowledge, Mother Saint John was too busy with France to dream of American missions.

I have to be fair. Both of those stories spell the names of the principal characters correctly and are in the right decade for the events.  Unfortunately, although they credit the Countess de la Rochejacquelin with funding the mission, they are oblivious to her decisive role in bringing it about.  

So, when I am asked if I am writing the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph, I am going to answer that I am having a great time doing research and hoping to write the best, most interesting account I can of what probably really happened. I got so lost in what some people wrote as history that I have to return tomorrow to learn more about Jacques Fontbonne.  Stay tuned, he’s a character!

The Sisters of St Joseph hope to publish this history in the spring/summer of 2016