Praying the More with the Congregation of St. Joseph
By Charles McKelvy
(Nazareth, Michigan) The long-time friend of the Congregation of St. Joseph arrived early for their 10th Anniversary Celebration Liturgy in the sisters’ splendid Holy Family Chapel on Gull Road just east of Kalamazoo and took an end seat in what appeared to be an empty row.
But then, as the good sisters of St. Joseph and their associates and friends and benefactors filed in for the 1 p.m. anniversary Mass, a sister with a walker came around the corner and told the man: “You’re sitting in my seat.” But she was all smiles and added: “This is the row where all the sisters with walkers sit. But you stay right there, and we’ll get acquainted.”
And get acquainted they did, because I am that long-time friend of the Congregation of St. Joseph who was blessed to have been in the company of that good sister before, during, and following an order of worship that included the singing of the Congregation’s signature We Pray the More hymn by K. Sherman, CSJ.
I have been seeking spiritual direction from the Sisters of Saint Joseph at Nazareth since 2000, so I was most aware that on August 6, 2007 seven independent congregations of Sisters of St. Joseph and their lay associates joined together as one, and became known as the Congregation of St. Joseph.
Having received an invitation in the mail, I knew that the good Sisters of St. Joseph wanted to “celebrate this anniversary and the generosity by which you and so many in our communities across the country have embraced us and continue to be a part of our mission, ministries and lives.”
Having received good, orderly spiritual direction from first Sister Gertrude Maurer, CSJ, and then, after she retired, from Sister Betsy Meager, CSJ, and having attended numerous spiritually enriching retreats and seminars at the Congregation of St. Joseph’s Transformations Spirituality Center at Nazareth, I most definitely wanted to be part of the celebration on August 6, 2017, and so there I was before Mass being made to feel most welcome by one of the good sisters who was graciously allowing me to sit in her normal seat.
She told me that she had entered the order in the 1950s along with many other young women, and she said the Sisters of St. Joseph, like so many other religious communities, had no trouble recruiting young women to join their ranks because, as she said, they were out there in their distinctive habits teaching school, and nursing the sick in hospitals, and just generally carrying the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to anyone and everyone.
My new friend lamented that the Congregation of St. Joseph, like so many other religious communities, no longer seems to be attracting legions of young recruits. “We’re not out there anymore,” she said, as if that explained the drop in numbers of aspirants.
But I silently disagreed, because I have been the recipient of the good orderly direction of the Sisters of St. Joseph since 2000. And because I was sitting next to a good sister of the 10-year-old Congregation of St. Joseph who was making me feel so very welcome, even though I was sitting in her chair.
I assured her I felt the love, and when she gave me her blessings, I beamed.
You see, the anniversary Mass coincided with the Transfiguration of the Lord. I know that was no coincidence, because like Peter, I wanted to build a tent or two for the good sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph.
But they would have none of it.
They fed me after Mass at a lovely reception, and then sent me on my way to do just as they do everyday, which is to grow wherever and whenever I am planted.
To wit, this adaptation of 1 Cor. 15, 36-38 by Sister E. Burkhart, SSJ:
What is planted is a small dry seed
Apparently without life
Yet spring rain and sun
Cause a miracle of green to rise from it
So it is with you
The growth is not your own,
But a gift from God to you.
The Congregation of St. Joseph has indeed been a gift from God to me, and they can be for you as well. Begin your spiritual journey with them by visiting: www.transformationscenter.org.
And please pray the more!