Fa l l 2 0 1 3 We lc o m i n g t h e S t r a n g e r
Possumus We Can
“Three Sisters”, ©2005, Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ. Use of artwork permitted by Patsy Scott, owner.
A Publication of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation
Then they will answer and say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?” He will answer them, “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” Matthew 25:44-46
Possumus is Latin for we can. It sums up the drive and willpower that identifies the Sisters of St. Joseph as one of the most influential non-profit organizations working in Minnesota in the past 150 years.
Pos s u m u s
elcome to our latest issue of Possumus! Throughout the past several years we’ve explored topics such as advocacy, leadership, bold moves, and partnerships in our effort to explore how our community works. We’ve used these themes to illustrate how the Sisters of St. Joseph and Consociates and other partners continue to make real change in the lives of people who are under-represented in our neighborhoods. With this issue we dig a little deeper and ask how the vast anonymity of this modern world gets broken down. Simply put, how do we create community? The answer, we’ve discovered, lies in welcoming the stranger. It is not enough to make community with friends and family. Rather, it is overcoming our fears of the unknown person and discovering the gifts he or she brings into our lives. The late spirituality writer and founder of the L’Arche Community, Henri Nouwen, wrote that “. . . our ever-changing relationship to ourself can be brought to fruition in an ever-changing relationship to our fellow human beings.” Yet, he writes, “Our society seems to be increasingly full of fearful, defensive, aggressive people anxiously clinging to their property and inclined to look at their surrounding world with suspicion. . . But still, that is our vocation: to convert… the enemy into a guest . . . ” This is how the Sisters of St. Joseph have been operating for hundreds of years. In these pages you’ll read how and why they’re still at it. Welcome.
Mary Louise Menikheim Ralph Scorpio Co-Editor Co-Editor Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation Ministries Foundation Board Member Executive Director
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S t. Mary’s Health Clinics invite new Americans by Christina M. Cavitt
Photography by Christina Cavitt
Dr. Yanelquis Acosta was one of those kids who took care of others when they were sick or hurt. As the second of six siblings, she had ample opportunity to practice healing others. When she was old enough, she went to medical school in her native Cuba and served as a physician there, as well as in Venezuela and Pakistan, before she and her husband, Adalberto Torres, M.D., came to the United States in February, 2008. Torres also studied and practiced medicine in Cuba.
“‘Oh, I have just the place for you!’ Lilly told us. ‘St. Mary’s Clinic needs people.’ Lilly worked there and we trusted her, so off we went,” says Yanelquis. “They welcomed us and we signed on as interpreters. You see, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have abroad. If you’re not licensed in the United States, you cannot practice medicine here. But we were able to shadow physicians at the Clinics, see how things work and really help patients understand their care needs and options.” In addition to being their friend, Sister Lilly stood as Adalberto’s sponsor when he converted to Catholicism after coming to Minnesota. “It was like she adopted us,” Adalberto says. “Our concerns became hers. We were amazed at how many connections and resources she had to help us make our home here in Minnesota, both professionally and personally.” He is currently in residency at Smiley’s Family Medicine Clinic, and Yanelquis stays home to care for the couple’s young son. Nowadays, each is too
Dr. Yanelquis Acosta and her son
busy to volunteer at St. Mary’s Health Clinics; but after both are licensed and their baby is older, they intend
“Helping others has been my passion for as long as I can remember,” Yanelquis says. “I wanted to continue serving as a physician in the U.S., but becoming certified required a lot of steps. “Language is one of the biggest challenges we foreign-trained professionals face,” she explains. “Passing the medical boards requires advanced language skills, so mastering English is our first hurdle. My husband and I located in Minnesota as kind of a full immersion language program – ‘sink or swim,’” she jokes. At first, the couple stayed at Casa Guadalupana, a big house in West St. Paul that helps transitioning immigrants. There, they met Sister Lilly Long, CSJ, who worked at the house. In the course of becoming acquainted, Lilly learned of the couple’s goals to hone their English, as well as gain requisite medical volunteer hours.
to return to St. Mary’s as volunteer physicians. The Acostas join an increasing number of U.S. newcomers with valuable professional credentials who volunteer at ministries started by the CSJs. Consistent with how the Sisters of St. Joseph network to solve problems, news concerning volunteer opportunities spreads informally, through word-of-mouth. Additionally, social service agencies are beginning to refer their clients, too.
Outside Looking In When you are new to a country, it is like you are standing outside a thick glass window, looking into a beautiful room, explains Mayalan Keita-Brown, program advocate for the African-American Friendship
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Association for Cooperation and Development (A.A.F.A.C.D.). “But you can’t get in and the people in the room can’t see you.” A native of Liberia, Mayalan is a graduate of the University of Liberia law school. She migrated to the United States in 2003, at the end of the Liberian Civil War.
Supporting the Community St. Mary’s Health Clinics (SMHC) was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet St. Paul Province in 1991. SMHC is a great example of how the Sisters of St. Joseph plant seeds of help and hope and nurture growth until the roots grow strong and vines reach into the community. It’s a cycle of good work dating back to 1650 Le Puy, France, when CSJs started teaching bobbin lace making to women who needed a trade other than prostitution to support themselves. Over the centuries, the CSJ community expanded into education, medical care and justice for those in need, welcoming all as dear neighbors.
“The reasons for that thick glass window are many, not the least of which are language and cultural differences,” adds Dr. Mimi Oo, A.A.F.A.C.D. program coordinator. “We partner with the CSJs and other organizations in every way we can to pull those
Today, St. Mary’s Health Clinics is a vibrant health care ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph run mainly by lay professionals and fueled by volunteers. SMHC succeeds because it knows how to network. Bottom line? If the sisters can’t fix something, odds are they know somebody who can and will.
Dr. Mimi Oo, left, with Mayalan Keita-Brown
barriers down and help people new to this country not only acclimate and assimilate into their new lives here,
St. Mary’s Health Clinics is supported by in-kind donations, grant funding, and individual donations. One of the best ways to support the Clinics is to attend the annual Carondelet Gala, a festive evening that provides health care for our uninsured neighbors.
but also add value to the community.” Mimi, a family practice physician who received training in her native Burma, has extensive experience in tropical medicine. She worked as a United Nations Physician/World Health Organization consultant in Uganda for four years before her arrival in Minnesota. Additionally, she has been a research clinician on a project on women’s health initiatives at Hennepin Faculty Associates. Mayalan explains that A.A.F.A.C.D. provides education and services that empower Minnesota’s immigrants and refugees to integrate into life in their new homeland. Already, the organization has helped hundreds of foreign-trained doctors, nurses and other professionals from 50 different countries obtain licensure to practice in the United States. “That’s why finding volunteer opportunities for foreign-trained medical professionals is so important,” she says. “And that’s where St. Mary’s Health Clinics play a huge role.”
Next year’s Gala is on Friday, May 2, 2014. See www.csjministriesfoundation.org/gala for information.
W.I.S.E. Women In 1985, five years after her father, Liberia’s President William Richard Tolbert, was assassinated, Dr. Wilhelmina Holder came to the United States with the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program. Wilhelmina publicly says she left Liberia to accept a research position at the University of Minnesota.
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In reality, politics and profound fear prompted her departure because she believed her life and the life of her family were always in danger. Wilhelmina earned a Ph.D. in Epidemiology (the study of diseases and how to prevent them) and she began a career with non-profit organizations. Her modus operandi of addressing problems at the root is very effective in her current position as executive director of this Women’s Initiative for Self Empowerment (W.I.S.E.). It is also fundamentally in concert with the CSJ mission. In 2007, Wilhelmina was at Minnesota’s Capitol with a coalition fighting for the rights of Liberians in the U.S. who were about to lose their temporary protected status. There, she ran across Ginger Hedstrom, Justice Associate for the Sisters of Dr. Wilhelmina Holder St. Joseph, St. Paul Province. Ginger introduced Wilhelmina to a working group of the Sisters of St. Joseph Justice Commission, which advances the social justice agenda of the CSJs. Together, they collaborated with A.A.F.A.C.D.’s Mayalan Keita-Brown and Mimi Oo. “By combining forces, we present a stronger voice toward getting more funding and programs in support of those new to this country,” Wilhelmina says.
“Our liability insurance requires that our medical volunteers have a current U.S. license to practice,” says Barbara Dickie, Executive Director of St. Mary’s Health Clinics. “When foreign-trained individuals come here, they usually start in admissions or interpreter roles in order to gain experience toward getting into a residency program. “Volunteers are key to our healthcare services,” Barbara emphasizes. “When Sister Mary Madonna Ashton, CSJ started this ministry, she brought in volunteers to get things going. It became so wildly successful and an integral vehicle to bring medical services to the poor, low income, uninsured and underinsured, that this model has carried through over the years. Part of the responsibility of St. Mary’s is not only offering healthcare but also providing opportunity for partners in the community to come forward and give to people who are in need. Volunteering works two ways. It’s not only that we need them. They need an opportunity to use their skills in a way they’ll feel good about.”
Ever-widening Circle “I am astonished by people who have migrated to this country from unimaginable terror,” Ginger says. “Somehow, they translate that terror into providing opportunities for resiliency, strength and a more sustainable life for the people they serve in this country. Many immigrants possess the legal, social service, educational and leadership skills that this country desperately needs. Unfortunately, they can’t always get the experience in the U.S. that would qualify them to practice here. The CSJs, in cooperation with organizations like W.I.S.E. and A.A.F.A.C.D., help talented professionals get that experience. “Wilhelmina and Mayalan are women for whom justice is in every cell of their being,” Ginger continues. Their lives are committed to the betterment not only of the people they serve, but in being a part of the betterment of everyone. I have not talked to anybody who has volunteered at St. Mary’s Health Clinics who did not have a deep and rich experience that kept them committed to the mission providing quality health care to all dear neighbors. Anyone who goes there becomes part of an ever-widening circle of the CSJs’ network and ministries.” ?
Beaudelaine Pierre, program coordinator at W.I.S.E., is from Haiti. Last summer, at the invitation of the Sisters of St. Joseph Ministries Foundation Board of Directors, she attended a board meeting to educate board members on this collaboration. They had no idea of this additional way that St. Mary’s Health Clinics provided support to people in need. At the meeting, Beaudelaine discovered that the more W.I.S.E. and A.A.F.A.C.D. partner with the CSJ’s community network, the more each organization can accomplish. “W.I.S.E. and A.A.F.A.C.D. refer our foreign-trained clients to places like St. Mary’s Health Clinics so they can gain vital volunteer hours toward professional licensure,” Wilhelmina says. “Praise God, it’s working!”
Vo i c e s
The Dudes The editors sat down with six male Consociates — Michael Bayly, Chuck Boe, Joe Boyle, Pat Casey, Father Pat Casey, and John Gries — to find out how they have been welcomed into the CSJ community. Why join a women’s organization?
Chuck: I am glad to be a male in this community. I was not raised Catholic, and I became introduced to Catholicism at the University of Minnesota. I went through the RCIA program and was confirmed through the university’s Newman Center. I worked at St. Stephen’s and attended St. Joan of Arc Parish. That was my experience of church. At one point I was looking into joining a men’s religious order as a vowed member, but then I decided that wasn’t what I thought the church was. The Consociate program of the CSJs was what I was looking for.
Pat: I was one of the first men to join the consociates, but I had known CSJs for years – mainly as teachers and nurses. I’ve also served as a board member of the Ministries Foundation. When I found out what the Sisters were doing out in our community, I realized that they were just what I was looking for. I wasn’t even sure I’d get in! John: I, too, had spent time on the Ministries Foundation Board of Directors, and I’ve had experiences with the Sisters of St. Joseph going back 30 years. I see the CSJs as an organization living the Gospel. I don’t see it as a women’s organization but as a way to live the Gospel.
Father Pat: Growing up, I had never really understood women in the church. I was ordained in 1965, when Sisters still wore the habit. I had the opportunity to get to know them when I worked in parishes in the New Ulm diocese. The Sisters worked with such personal faith and experience. When I retired, one of the CSJs talked to me about the Consociates, so I applied.
Michael: The women’s issue was not a big issue for me at all. The CSJs are an alternative model of the church, built on justice and compassion, that I had longed for.
(Left to right) Pat Casey, Joe Boyle, Father Pat Casey and Michael Bayly. Not pictured are Chuck Boe and John Gries.
Vo i c e s
Joe: I came in because of the Hedgerow theology series and learning about many areas. The CSJ interpretation of Scripture turned my view of faith toward social justice. This knowledge certainly enriched my faith, and I found myself becoming more involved.
Chuck: On a face-to-face level, I’ve always felt welcomed. However, I initially had a different experience. When I was officially welcomed as a Consociate in a ritual in 2004, I mentioned my life partner. This created a bit of a stir in the community. A few weeks later, I heard that some Sisters expressed concern to other Sisters and thought the CSJs should reconsider my status. They didn’t, and everything is fine now; and every Sister I’ve met one-on-one has certainly welcomed me.
How have the Sisters of St. Joseph welcomed you? Joe: Being a part of the CSJs is a continuous process. It began with CSJs inviting us to homes for a meal, and we saw our friendships develop on a deeper level. I could tell they recognized us as part of their community. Today I have the feeling that I don’t have to be anything but myself with them, and I am very grateful for that.
Father Pat: I didn’t realize that these women have such a good, comfortable way of dealing with us men. I didn’t expect to be put on a pedestal, and we’re not! As a priest, they let me know that I am one of them.
Michael: As a gay man who feels like a stranger in the Catholic Church, I felt welcomed by the CSJs. They model church in their way of welcoming the stranger.
What keeps you connected to the CSJs? Michael: The charism of the CSJs is to love God and neighbor without distinction. I know that in society and in the church there are still many distinctions made between people and groups. I appreciate the CSJs really addressing that and living it out to its fullest.
John: One of the reasons I became a Consociate is that the CSJs walk the talk. Just look at this group of us; look at how the Sisters treat people in their ministries; look at the depth and breadth of their mission. Pat: Years ago I went to my first Province Assembly, and I was the only man there. I’ll admit I felt fear and trepidation. But many Sisters came up to me and told me how glad they were to see me. I checked them out, and I’ve been impressed. As a Catholic, they’ve helped me see people in a new light. I learn from them every day.
Chuck: My affiliation with the CSJs has allowed and encouraged me to reach out to a variety of people, study spiritual direction, and pursue a career in providing spiritual guidance. It’s been an incredible experience. The CSJs have helped me see that this is an amazing journey. There isn’t a finish line; this is a journey – and it’s always beginning again. As I go through life I experience this with every new situation that comes up. These are all the beginnings of new journeys, with new ways to respond.
Vo i c e s
Father Pat: A big change for me lately has been going from the active ministry as a priest to a retired one. It’s been a good thing for me to reflect on being a priest and in the church now. It would be easy for me to kind of check out now, but I feel myself really checking in. This is the church. It’s helpful to me to be around the CSJs; they show me there are lots of new opportunities for me. My retirement has given me the opportunity to be with real people and the real church, and associating with the Sisters of St. Joseph has been a big part of that. We’re on the cutting edge. I’m glad to be here and glad to be part of it.
They’re saying, “Welcome, stranger.” Now it is not as hard for me to welcome people I meet. I find when I go down the street and my eyes meet someone else’s, I say hello, and they say hello back. We’re all together in this. Michael: In my job I’m always attempting to have conversations with people who may disagree with me. The example of the CSJs on how to relate to people who may not be on the same page on any number of issues has served me well. I now recognize that even though these people may have totally different opinions or world views, we are not strangers; we are still connected. I appreciate the challenge the CSJs give: love God and neighbor without distinction. We can still find God in unexpected people and places if we just dig deeper and talk honestly with people. There are no strangers.
What have you learned from the CSJs? John: By the time I had become a Consociate, I had been a church-going person my whole life. I thought I was open to what it meant to love the neighbor. I didn’t know how I could expand my thinking on this. However, I soon learned how narrow my understanding was. I had no idea how expansive it could turn out to be — how I could expand what it means to live the Gospel and expand what it means to be present to people — because of my association with the Sisters of St. Joseph. My understanding has greatly expanded, and I’m grateful.
What have you brought to the CSJs? Chuck: When I joined, I brought a different perspective, one that the Sisters weren’t familiar with. Now I see that part of the gift I get is that when I feel that I’m a weird cog in the wheel, I can look around and realize that I’m not that weird. Lots of Sisters and Consociates are doing very interesting things.
Pat: I’ve learned that it’s possible to get along with people, to love people, but have different outlooks on life. What’s really brought that home to me was moving into Carondelet Village and meeting all these elderly sisters I never knew before. How joyful they are and how wonderful they are! It’s clear a lot of them have a lot of physical challenges. They have a hard time getting around with their walkers and their scooters. But when I see them in the halls, they always have a big smile. They help me realize that life is good. People are good.
Joe: As a consociate, I think I’ve brought the awareness that every human being has a talent that’s uniquely theirs. Being part of the CSJ community has led me to realize how much they do and the difference they make in just being who they are. This has transformed me into accepting myself more. I have outgrown some of the feelings of when I have failed and I realize that the most important moment is now. And trying to live in that, and trying to see every person I meet as another Christ speaking to me. It’s a priceless gift. ?
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he unexpected results of hospitality.
Hospitality is a two-way street on which the giver and the receiver meet. At times it is difficult to distinguish between the giver of hospitality and the receiver. Both are recipients of gifts, gifts capable of changing attitudes of fear and distrust into attitudes of openness and acceptance. Last fall Mary Clare Korb, CSJ invited me to attend the International Day at Learning In Style, a center for learning English as a second language. It was a Sunday and the participants from Asia, Africa, Central America and Mexico were present. It was obvious that they, together with their Minnesota teachers, had spent hours preparing for the day with displays of typical dress, music, dance and ethnic foods. It was a day of integration with both teachers and students eager to share the fruits of a long-standing relationship of trust and encouragement. The principal givers at Learning In Style are the teachers. What does it require of them to accept and welcome immigrants from different cultures who are more comfortable within their group speaking their native language? I would say that a first requirement is self-emptying of those attitudes that create distrust rather than acceptance. Our dominant culture has builtin prejudices and assumptions. One common assumption is that quiet people don’t know much. Maybe they don’t know English but they have great knowledge of things beyond our understanding, such as persecution, solidarity
and survival skills. I asked Denay Ulrich, SSND, who teaches refugee and immigrant adults at MORE in St. Paul, how she feels when she learns the stories of her students. She replied that she is overwhelmed with gratitude for her life and doesn’t know how she would have reacted had she been born into a situation of extreme poverty or persecution. The teachers at both LIS and MORE are blessed daily with new insights about themselves and their students. Anita Duckor recently returned from a trip to Kenya where she met the native CSJ Consociates. She told me that it was a “God experience” for her to realize that in their poverty they have nothing but have everything within the deep bonds of community. Perhaps the greatest gift received is the awareness of the profound interconnectedness among us and all of creation from our most sacred inner core, to the world and all the creatures who share the planet with us. I would like to close citing the words attributed to Chief Seattle, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” And that truth is the unexpected gift of hospitality. ? Kathleen Judge, CSJ *Sister Kathleen died on June 5, 2013 after living a life full of hospitality, grace, and service to others. May she rest in peace.
Tu r n i n g Po i n t
ords of welcome.
Serphine Achola Mambe and Aloys Mambe Obonyo, who live in Kenya, became acquainted with the Sisters of St. Joseph through Mary Lieta, whom Possumus profiled in Spring/Summer 2012. On May 1, 2013, after two years of preparation and discernment, Serphine and Aloys professed their commitment to be Consociates of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province. Here are their statements:
I, Serphine Achola Mambe, commit myself to
I spent most of my working years at a sugar
live the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the context of my life and responsibilities, moving towards profound love of God and the dear neighbor without distinction. I was brought up strictly Christian and I have tried my best to be one. I have engaged in social activities, church work, and civil societies activities in the attempt to alleviate human suffering and to live in unity with other members of my community. Not even once did I go out of my way to love the dear neighbor without distinction, including the animals and my environment. I am now alert and conscious of what I do and must do. I have living examples of Consociates and Sisters and am encouraged to know that I do not walk alone. Through my old connections with my community I will now serve my neighbor in a purpose driven manner with God and the CSJs behind me. Every stitch I make, every word of counsel, every intervention â€“ legal or spiritual â€“ will be CSJ driven and will have the love, spirit, and prayers of the CSJs behind it. I bring myself and my all and ask for prayers from all the CSJs. ?
factory serving more than 40,000 farmers. It was a big challenge for me, but I managed very well. On retirement, I started working with Christians as a church leader, my community members, farmers, and the youth. In a community that is isolated because of its political affiliation, I encounter many challenges that are to do with lack of justice, poverty, and varied ways of suffering. I struggled along with my people and my service to them never struck me as serving God and the dear neighbor without distinction. Today my whole life has been transformed, and I have not only come to enjoy my service to the community more but have learned to evaluate it working as a CSJ. Now I do what I do consciously and appreciate that I am among many other brothers and sisters who serve humanity the way I do. To this community I bring myself and all I have and my willingness to continue my service with prayers from other CSJ members to support me. With confidence, I, Aloys Mambe Obonyo, commit myself to be a Consociate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province, moving always toward profound love of God and neighbor without distinction. I pledge myself to live the vision and values of the community within the context of my life and responsibilities. ?
Our Community Garden Our Community Garden springs from conversations among young adults hosted by Celeste’s Dream* in 2004. Conversations focused on ideas for sustaining the common good and building community. A community garden, it seems, is one way to welcome people to a shared experience of contributing to the wellness of self, community and Earth. The goals of our Community Garden are to learn organic growing methods, to enjoy healthy heirloom produce, to build community with Earth and other gardeners, to participate in a local food system, and to share the harvest! The intergenerational relationships built in the garden are one of the many rich outcomes: We’ve connected with hundreds of St. Kate’s students/faculty/ staff, neighbors, Sisters, Consociates and others in and around the garden and we’ve also donated thousands of pounds of produce to local food shelves. ?
*Celesteâ€™s Dream offers young adults 20-35 years old an opportunity to integrate their education, values, spirituality, and work in the context of community. Some programs are for high school and college students, and some welcome intergenerational participation.
A welcoming life by Vina Moeun
Sister believed in me, the same way that my late My name is Vina Moeun. I am from Cambodia. mother always did. I remember she said that I make I came to the United States on October 23, 1996. things happen, not to wait for things to happen. I have known Sister Mary Beneva Schulte since I graduated from St. Kate’s, but Sister was still my 1997, when I lived at Sarah’s. . . An Oasis for Women. teacher. If she were here right now, she would gently She was my ESL teacher. In Cambodia, teacher correct my incorrect words. is considered as a second parent to the students. Sister asked me the same question that my mother Sometimes, after class, Sister and I did things together: did, “When will you come to visit me?” Every time I • We walked (She loved a pure nice breeze the most). asked her what did she need from me to get for her? • We played Scrabble (We both loved very much). Sister also reminded me of my late grandmother, Sister worried about me when I did not have a job. who was a Buddhist nun. Sister Mary Beneva, my She asked me to cut her hair, so she could pay me. grandmother, and my mother — they all had a pure She also gathered a few Sisters, who needed a haircut, heart. They were kind, honest and had compassion for for me. people less fortunate than She invited me to have Vina Moeun in her native Cambodia. us. They all loved justice. dinner with her at Bethany, On July 3, 2012, I came so I did not have to buy to pick up Sister for a ride, food. She was honest and but we got mixed up with she cared very much. She the plan. So we re-planned asked me how I was doing. for another time. I stayed She really meant to know visiting with her for a while about me. If she said she in her clean apartment. would pray for my family I called her a few days or someone else, she would before her horrible accident really do it. I believed her. that led to her death to In 2000, after I bought inform her that we would a house, Sister walked from go for a ride on Sunday. the Provincial House to She told me that Sunday is my house that is close to the day that people should I-94 and Snelling. She was rest, not to work. I told her very happy for me and she that I would call to confirm wanted to surprise me with the date because I needed her visit.
to rearrange my work We both shared some schedule. Sister said to me, things in common: “We play by ears.” It was the • We honor and value our relationship as a last time that I spoke to her. teacher and student. Sister passed away, but • We respect each other’s her smile and her legacy is beliefs. still alive forever. She had • We keep our promises. lived a very simple life. Her • We respect times. If we closet had no more than a said we met at 8 o’clock, few outfits and she told me we would be at the place at exact time that we that she had enough. She promised. never locked her apartment. Sister used to like to go She always left her keys on to St. Clair Broiler for a BLT the kitchen counter. She Sister Mary Beneva Schulte and chocolate malt shake. trusted everyone. Her favorite color was navy Some people might not understand our blue. I wear navy blue today to honor Sister. relationship, because she was a devoted Catholic nun, The most important thing that Sister taught and born and raised in the U.S., and I was born and raised showed me is that material is not important. What is as Buddhist. Why did Sister and I get along very well? important is inside our heart. We should love and care for one another and be honest. I always love you, Sister.
Welcoming the strangers among us When a St. Joseph Worker (SJW) alum looks back at her year — from moving in with 5 or 6 complete strangers to working at a non-profit in the Twin Cities — community building is what she often remembers as the hardest part. But ask any St. Joseph Worker, and you’ll hear that she formed community in the intentional, scheduled times as well as the impromptu hang out times — and it was all worth it. But difficult. “Community is a very common word, especially if you are doing any kind of social justice or church work,” says Brie Jonna. “It has this happy, great feeling. People talk about it all the time. However, 90 percent of the time, it’s a vague thing. If people are not committed to living in community, what does that actually mean?” “We talk at church, especially in social justice circles, and use the words ‘creating the beloved community,’ a Martin Luther King Jr. statement, ” says Laney Ohmans. “But there isn’t much said about doing the impossible work of building community, which is very, very difficult and not always pleasant. The St. Joseph Worker experience of living with people who are externally similar to me but internally different was difficult!” According to Brie, in spite of the fact that she lived with people in college and studied abroad, one of the biggest gifts she received from her St. Joseph Worker year was self-knowledge. The experience of intentional
“Coming into the SJW community was a whole different experience because to say ‘community’ actually meant something,” Brie adds. “Everyone in that house was committed to being there, being a part of that community, and acting on that. To make community a real thing, in a way that I don’t think it usually is in the world.” “When you are choosing to be with people, no matter what you are doing, that has a whole new meaning as well,” says Meg KenKnight-Burman. “I had people in town that I wanted to see. However, I felt committed to the program, so I made space for it even if it wasn’t always the thing I wanted to be doing at the moment.” “The fact is that we chose to be a part of that community,” says Brie. “Sometimes other choices overshadowed; but at the end of the day, everyone was making hard choices like that. We were trying the best we could. There are always other obligations in your life. “We spent a lot of time in the year we lived together being vulnerable, examining ourselves and
community required her to be selfreflective, and for the first time she noticed how and why she did the things she did. She noticed, too, Brie Jonna that not everyone did those same things. She looks back on the way she and the other SJWs lived together in ways that are closer and more vulnerable — including cooking for each other, cleaning each other’s spaces, spending a lot of time together, and talking about their feelings.
each other, and learning about our communication styles,” says Brie, “so our relationships are deeper and much more intimate than those with most other friends.”
Realizing The Difference “I think it was the first time that I experienced myself doing things that I didn’t think were wrong, but I had to stop doing anyway,” says Laney. “The one thing that has been the most helpful in moving forward is understanding that just because I don’t think something is wrong or hurtful doesn’t mean that categorically it is NOT.”
“There was a lot of, ‘Oh, I didn’t even realize that this is a thing I do, and that no one else does it,’” says
that I will have a clean apartment every time I have a
Brie. “Today, I could describe the differences between
think about where other people are coming from.”
test. I know he’s stressed, too. I have a framework to “I lived in a community in college, and we were
my upbringing and Laney’s upbringing that might start to explain the differences in who we are and
kind of committed in the sense that we were all there,
how we act in the world. Before I was a St. Joseph
but we didn’t spend much time together,” says Brie.
Worker, I don’t think I would have been able to realize
“We didn’t have good structures for working out
that difference. It’s deeper than simply our personal
disagreements.” Ah, disagreements. What the St. Joseph Workers needed to find out for themselves was that every community has a moment when things go badly. And unless those involved get to the point where there is disagreement and they have to work it out together, they are not truly engaging in community. “If you can’t deal with conflict, then there is no community,” says Laney. “Real community is the ability to work through conflict. It has to be worked on.” “The only community living situation that I had experienced before was when I studied abroad and lived with a bunch of people in a small place,” says Meg. “It was awful because when bad things happened, they didn’t care. However, living in the Joseph House, challenges did happen. We all cared, and we worked it out.” Meg KenKnight-Burman The St. Joseph Workers talked about the situation. They had a talking circle. “It was well-intentioned,” says Meg, “but talking circles were difficult, challenging our ability to work through the issues.” “There was a positive side to disagreements,” adds Brie. “We as a community, without outside instruction, decided when something was clearly wrong and we wanted to fix it. Most people who are simply living together don’t decide to sit down and talk about issues among them. We learned that living in a committed
preferences. I began to realize this even about myself. Now, people often tell me that I’m very self-aware. Today, I can articulate and process why I do things because of this experience.”
Dealing With Conflict One of the big lessons Laney learned is that the way she communicated with another St. Joseph Worker was seen as extremely aggressive in that other Worker’s eyes. This taught her to be more cognizant about how she listens to and communicates with other people. “It was helpful to learn that people Laney Ohmans
communicate in different ways,” says
Laney. “I remember one of my community members saying, ‘If I mention something once, it is a really big deal.’ I’m a huge extrovert, and I remember thinking, ‘WHAT are you TALKING about?’ Because my initial reaction was, ‘you need to get over that,’ my learning was not to make a value judgment about her communication style.” “The experience of living in the SJW community has made a difference in how I now relate to my husband, too,” says Meg. “Even when we have a bad day, when I have a test, he was up late and the house is messy, and I just want to snap, I can take a step back. I think about how it’s unreasonable for me to expect
community meant that we don’t let an issue slide, sit in our rooms, and be mad at each other. The result was that our relationships in the house grew deep and stronger. “It made it easier to disagree with housemates because I knew we all shared these values,” says Brie. “It was a good thing to remind myself of when we disagreed. I remembered we are all here for the same reason; we ultimately believe in the same thing.”
now I don’t think, ‘Oh, Dread!’” “Being with people who shared my values was so exciting. In my own specific denominational affiliation, talking about spirituality with other people is not something you do,” says Laney. “My faith was something I didn’t talk about. It was this separate part of my life that was mostly just for me. So it was amazing to be with people who had a spiritual practice of their own. It was an important period of growth for me to be able to talk about it. I could have these friends that I could have fun with and have superficial conversations with, and then we could talk about spirituality. That specific element was different.” “Having been a part of an intentional community, I understand that the intention comes from within me,” says Brie. “I have the intention, and I can bring that commitment to any community of which I am a part. That intentionality piece might have been something that I wasn’t aware of before I was in the SJW Program.” ?
Good Intentions At the end of the SJW year, many of the young women say that while creating real community was difficult, it was also the most rewarding aspect of the program. “At the time, I would have said it was really hard,” says Brie. “But looking back on it, what I remember is not that feeling of disagreement and stress that was so horrible at the moment. That isn’t what I take away. Sure, I can remember that and say it was hard; but if someone says community to me
“As I packed and prepared to move into the Rita House in Saint Paul, I was most nervous about living in community. I was scared of the unknown. Who are these people going to be? Will they like me? How is this different from having roommates? I could not find a life situation that was equivalent of moving in with four strangers and living as a family unit.” St. Joseph Worker alum Elizabeth Fairbairn
Design of Possumus by Ann Fleck / Periwinkle Concepts
C a l l To A c t i o n
ways to welcome
1. Greet people, especially young people, on the street with a smile, eye contact, and a hello.
2. Get to know a recent immigrant to this country. Ask about his or her homeland, family, and culture.
3. Befriend a new member or family in your church. Invite them to join you at a church event or service. Accompany them and introduce them to people you already know.
4. Find out who in your neighborhood is alone, perhaps an elderly person. Ask to visit. Bring a treat and engage in conversation. Ask if you could visit again.
5. Actively support a social justice project of area high school students.
6. Be the spirit of Jesus to someone who looks down and out.
“Small cheer and great welcome makesa merry feast.” ~ William Shakespeare
Join us for a merry feast featuring 14 chefs/caterers preparing savory samplings of international cuisines, fine wines, craft beers and artisan teas.
Friday, November 8, 2013 6:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. Cretin-Derham Hall High School 550 S. Albert Street • St. Paul, MN
All to support our 12 new St. Joseph Workers who work in non-profit organizations, bringing help and hope to thousands of women, children and men who are without homes, food, health care, education and safe relationships. The Workers learn about social justice, compassion, leadership, spirituality, and living simply in an intentional community.
Live and silent auctions plus an online auction that kicks off on Monday, November 4, at
www.biddingforgood.org/csj Register online at www.csjministriesfoundation.org. Click on a Taste of Thanksgiving.
Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Twin Cities, MN Permit No.1990
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province Ministries Foundation 1884 Randolph Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55105
Keep up-to-date with the Ministries Foundation and the Sisters of St. Joseph by joining: