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Fa l l 2 0 0 9 / Wi n t e r 2 0 1 0 B o l d M o v e s

Possumus We Can

A Publication of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation

“Do not be content at welcoming opportunities to serve when they arise; carefully and promptly seek them out yourself in order to imitate more perfectly your heavenly Father.� Father Jean Pierre Medaille, SJ

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


old moves.

How did you cope during the worst recession in decades? If you’re like most people, you probably spent less and postponed major projects – and for good reason. But the Sisters of St. Joseph – always countercultural! – had a good reason for doing the opposite. We purchased, renovated, and converted an old funeral home into a ministry center (pages 3-8). Why? Because the people who come to our ministries needed it, and they needed it now. As Sister Char Madigan writes on page 9, “We didn’t invent good works. But we were part of a big realization that locking yourself up in a tower is not the best way to get close to God. If you want to get close to God, get close to people.” A visit to the new CSJ Ministry Center at 2200 Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis is an inspiring reminder that the Sisters step in where others may fear to tread. Even more, it is a concrete reminder of what happens when a small group of committed people dare to take risks to help people with needs work toward their full potential. The Sisters set high standards, then provide the tools and support that encourage people to meet the goals. As this issue of Possumus illustrates, this wasn’t the first bold move the Sisters of St. Joseph have tackled. CSJs have always shown a readiness for action, change, new projects – whatever is needed to respond to the needs of the men, women, and children who come to us seeking education, health care, shelter, and assistance. This issue of Possumus only scratches the surface. Join our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages (instructions are printed on the back cover) or visit www.csjministriesfoundation.org to keep up with the Sisters of St. Joseph and their next bold moves. Possumus. We can! Sister Irene O’Neill, CSJ Executive Director Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Ministries Foundation


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HARD TIMES, SO WHAT DO WE DO? We go to work, that’s what.

Vietnamese, Caribbean, etc. No, the Sisters were not going into the funeral business. Their business is to serve the needs of their neighbors. But they wanted to put a stake in the ground to say, “We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere.” And they have big dreams for the new building.

You could almost hear what people were thinking back in October of 2008. What were the Sisters of St. Joseph thinking? The Great Depression was making a comeback. Everyone’s investments had been cut down to size. The whole world was hoarding and fretting and keeping their heads down. And that was the moment the Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ) chose to purchase an old funeral home. It wasn’t even money they could spare. Their investments had had a bite taken out, just like everyone else’s. Besides, the CSJs were well known for one aspect of their modus operandi. They traveled light. If they needed a place to work, they rented, or shared. It was an economical way to do business, and it allowed them to pack up and move on when their work was done and not get slowed down by the responsibilities of ownership. That pattern of portability had served them very well for 150 years in and around Minnesota. So what did they think they were doing?

“An important goal of the new Ministry Center is to find partners to share classroom space with us,” says Sister Marie Herbert Seiter, CSJ, whose job is managing the CSJ’s outreach ministries. “We’re looking for someone who could address the same community, during times when we are not using it – evenings and in the summer. Plus, we have an entire third-floor space that would be ideal for the right group.” But their immediate need was to strengthen the business they were already in, over at the Calvary Church at Blaisdell and 26th Street. For 15 years, the CSJs had been working with new immigrant families, helping to put them on a firmer foundation as they grappled with the cultural, occupational, and educational challenges of being Americans. The Sisters operated two ministries at Calvary Church – a St. Mary’s Health Clinic and the Learning In Style education center, a program incubated at the old St. Stephen’s Parish convent that teaches adults the basics of living in the United States — how to speak English, use a computer, balance a checkbook,

While the rest of us were looking out for number one, the Sisters were heeding the instructions of the Gospel. They were lending a hand to people who were getting hit harder by the recession than any other group – brand-new arrivals to the Twin Cities from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The property they purchased was the old Albin Funeral Chapel at 2200 Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, along the stretch known as Eat Street, after the spectrum of international cuisines offered up and down the avenue – Mexican, Thai, German, Chinese,


Bold Move s

feed your family, and hold down a job. “Some of our students arrive with doctoral degrees but no English,” says Sister Irene O’Neill, CSJ, Executive Director of the Sisters of St. Joseph Ministries Foundation, which raises funds to support the CSJs’ ministries. “Some arrive with zero education. Some don’t even know what a number is. Learning In Style is designed with the individual’s needs in mind.” Also at Calvary is a ministry the Sisters founded but no longer operate – InStep, a day care center for low-income families. Altogether these ministries helped create a “Mall of America” of neighborhood social services at Calvary. But Learning In Style needed a new home. Calvary Church – a striking Romanesque Revival church built

in 1883 and registered with the Heritage Preservation Commission – was splitting at the seams. Something needed to be done. That’s when Dick Naughton stepped in. “I fell in love with Learning In Style from the moment I saw what they were doing,” says Naughton, who joined the Ministries Foundation’s Board of Directors in 2000. “I met with Sister Ag Foley, who founded and runs Learning In Style, and I loved what the Sisters were doing. But I had major concerns about them being on the second floor of that facility.” The Calvary Church building, while it has been the scene of tremendous work over its 13 decades of service, has structural concerns that would be obvious

10 Bold Moves Over 16 Decades

Converting an old funeral home into an education center, in the midst of the most severe recession in decades, isn’t the first bold move the Sisters of St. Joseph have tackled. A quick glance through history shows this is indeed how they operate.

1853 When a cholera outbreak reaches epidemic proportions in 1853, the Sisters transform their log cabin school into St. Joseph’s Hospital, Minnesota’s first hospital.



1894 CSJs begin to officially train nurses in 1894. In 1896, ten Sisters and six lay women graduate from St. Joseph’s Hospital Training School, St. Paul.








Four Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet journey up the Mississippi to the village of St. Paul in the Minnesota territory, with the intention of teaching school.

Sisters of St. Joseph establish the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. Today St. Catherine University is the largest women’s university in the U.S. Legend has it that in 1926 Sister Antonia McHugh, CSJ quickly started to build Mendel Hall to prevent Prior Avenue from cutting the campus in two.



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to anyone, but they screamed to Naughton, who is chief executive of James Steele Construction Co. in St. Paul, and knows about such things. “It had no elevators, so there was no way for disabled people to get up and down,” he says. “The stairs were dangerously narrow; and the railings were very low to the ground. From a liability standpoint alone, it was cause for concern.” On top of structural concerns, there was the feeling, among Naughton and others, that if the work of helping immigrant families advance their education was important, then it should happen in a proper environment. Naughton first took up the matter with Sister

Irene, the Ministries Foundation executive director, and suggested a change. “Other people were on board with the idea, but I was the one screaming the loudest,” he says. “He was absolutely right about the problem, and he was very persuasive about a solution,” says Sister Carolyn Puccio, CSJ, one of the three Sisters comprising the leadership team at that time. The idea began to gel that the CSJs needed a new facility, and a new facility meant a new approach for the Sisters. They were careful to ask just the right questions. They did not want to paint themselves into a corner for years to come by committing to a hasty decision.

1964 CSJs establish St. Mary’s Junior College in Minneapolis. In 1986 the school would become part of St. Catherines’s.


The 21st Century

Following the Second Vatican Council’s call for religious communities to return to their roots, the Sisters of St. Joseph move out of convents and into neighborhoods – just like the original Sisters in 17th century France.




The Sisters expand their network of help and hope for people in need. New ministries aimed at young adults, such as the St. Joseph Workers Program and Celeste’s Dream, foster leadership, spirituality, and community rooted in CSJ values, while the Hedgerow Initiative focuses on a feminist approach to theology. The CSJs also enter into a partnership with Presbyterian Homes to build Carondelet Village.






1970s, ’80s and ’90s The Sisters respond in new ways to changing needs, focusing on health care, education, spiritual guidance, and serving the neglected. Exciting ideas and organizations spring into existence:

1993 The Sisters of St. Joseph create the Ministries Foundation to raise and distribute funds to support ongoing ministries of the CSJs’ St. Paul Province.

The Bridge for Runaway Youth Peace House St. Joseph’s House The Free Store Learning In Style INSTEP day care Dwelling in the Woods Sarah’s…an Oasis for Women

1992 St. Mary’s Clinics are founded, providing access to health care for low-income uninsured men, women, and children.


Bold Move s

A NO answer to any of these questions may have led to the shutdown of Learning In Style.

recession into an ongoing center for teaching the poorest of poor people was, well, imprudent. But love is supposed to trump prudence, although it doesn’t always rise to the occasion. Sister Carolyn singles out Pat Croke, the Vice President of

With the help of MAP for Nonprofits, a group that helps organizations think through strategic issues, the Sisters asked three significant questions:

Administration for the Sisters of St. Joseph, for special credit. “You don’t want a controller who is irrational about financial risks,” she says. “We pay Pat to be sensible, and to say no. But he knows this is our mission, too. And so at every juncture, at every step of investment, he would just smile at us and say, ‘Let’s figure out a way to do it.’”


Was there a future for the school? Would new Americans still need this kind of schooling years into the future?


Was the Whittier neighborhood in Minneapolis really the best location?


Was the approach Learning In Style took unique, or was some other program already doing the same thing just as well? The focus group findings amounted to a referendum on the program’s validity, and the Sisters welcomed the positive data. “Each question came up with a YES answer. The demographics showed that immigrants would keep coming to Minneapolis, and the need for education was ongoing,” Sister Carolyn says. “The location was absolutely the right location. And the Learning In Style approach – teaching in small groups, focusing on women, and working with people who may have zero English when they arrive – nobody else was meeting that need.” “The MAP findings were reassuring,” says Sister Irene. “The CSJs came here more than 150 years ago to help immigrants. Our mission is the same today.” “This was something we decided we needed to do,” Sister Carolyn says. “It was a huge undertaking for us, even before the economy took a nosedive. It was daunting and uphill all the way, but we looked at one another and said, ‘We need to do this!’” So there it was: a conflict between two virtues, between prudence and service. From a fiduciary standpoint, the decision to spend money during a

So the call went out for a new building. “We looked for buildings to lease, without luck,” Sister Carolyn says. “We worked with a commercial realtor, who couldn’t find anything in the area we were talking about. We tried another realtor, who also came up empty. Then we looked to a third realtor, one who worked on the residential side. This went on for years – and then the Albin Funeral Chapel site went on the market.” One look was all it took to see that the property at 2200 Nicollet had potential as a ministry center, housing Learning In Style as its first tenant. The Sisters moved quickly to buy the property and to plan its remodeling. They hired an architect. Sister Ag at Learning In Style and the other teachers offered their “dream visions” of what the new school could do. Students still at the Calvary building were also interviewed.

Suddenly the eight-year labor, the “slow ooze,” was speeding to completion. 6

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Every so often amid the clang of construction a grace note was sounded. Material suppliers, hearing that it was the Sisters who were the end-customers, cut their prices or offered more for the same price. Workers came in on weekends and stayed late to get the job done. Asbestos removers, who were awarded the job on lowest-bid basis, learned that the job was significantly bigger than they had estimated. Turned out, their boss had gone to school under the Sisters at St. Stephens. “Well,” he said, “since it’s the Sisters ...” and they honored their original bid, saving thousands. The building was finally completed and opened this past September. The Albin family stopped in at the open house and were cheered to see that their place of business for so many years was due for another life of service. It was an idea that they had often entertained themselves, having that building continue as a place of ministry.

says. “Our only goal is to offer help.” The center offers so many new features. Up-to-date computer workspaces, small classrooms with doors that keep out sound, a terrific breakfast meeting area where each day starts with crackers and juice, and a garage space where clean donated clothing is available for families in need.

Learning In Style classroom

The Sisters have seized the initiative. Now’s the time for others to step up as well – to volunteer, to serve, to support. Now, who might that be?

Students are asked how they feel about the new place. They are circumspect at first, not wanting to show disrespect to Calvary Church, where they have had so many great experiences. “Bigger,” a man nods and says, looking around the new rooms. “More light,” says another making the tour. “I like the elevator!” a child of nine called out from down the hall. Finally Sister Ag told them it’s OK to speak their minds. “Much, much better!” a Somali woman says, all smiles.

Some of the strongest supporters of the center are the husbands of the women who attend. They are protective and not entirely comfortable with the idea of just anyone in Minneapolis filling their wives’ heads with ideas. But as they get to know the Sisters of St. Joseph, they trust them. They know the center is a safe place to learn how to be American, while retaining their native culture. “We’re not here to foist our faith on them,” Sister Ag

As for the teachers, they are walking with a quickened step and a renewed enthusiasm for teaching. “It feels good to come to a bright, clean, functioning place,” says Sister Ag. “It has given us all a new burst of energy.” “When I look around and see this place filled with students, I know this was the right thing to do,” says Dick Naughton. “This facility shows them that all of us – the Sisters, donors, board members – take their education seriously and want them to succeed.” ?


I l lu m i n at i o n


ore than bricks and mortar.

The Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ) have a wonderful history in Minnesota, but I think we are just doing here what CSJs are doing in other places – going into the world, serving the neighbor as a way to serve God. We’re part of an evolution of spirituality that started with Jesus. He was in the world, so that’s probably where we should be. We didn’t invent good works. But we were part of a big realization that locking yourself up in a tower is not the best way to get close to God. If you want to get close to God, get close to people. Community is the antidote to so much. When we started up in the 1600s, Sisters would go in pairs to the four corners of LePuy, France. The habits we wore were “widows’ weeds” – so we wouldn’t be mistaken for prostitutes. The clothes were supposed to help us blend in, not stand out. Back in the days when we still wore the habit, a boy accosted me on the street and asked if I were a man or a woman. I told him, “a woman.” It was a sign the habit was no longer having the intended effect! To me, what the CSJs have always done here is show a readiness for change. We came to this area, up from St. Louis, to be school teachers. But when the Sisters got here, a cholera epidemic erupted, and the Sisters shifted course and became nurses. This led the Sisters to open St. Joseph’s Hospital. Was it because our mission was healthcare? No. It was because that was what was needed at that moment. More than a century later, when it became clear that other people were better suited to manage healthcare in the high-tech era, we left the hospitals. But we have still played a role in the modern era of healthcare and started St. Mary’s Health Clinics for the uninsured. St. Joseph’s House was started 33 years ago because Sister Rita Steinhagen, CSJ, and I got a house in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood and people began staying overnight. We weren’t “being bold.” We were just doing what Jesus said to do. “Love your neighbor

without distinction.” Likewise Sister Rose Tillemans, CSJ, who died in 2002, started Peace House. She saw the need to create living space for homeless people. Likewise, with immigrants, when we saw that people just coming to the area needed adult education to get up to speed with English, if they were to have any chance of getting a job, Sister Agnes Foley started Learning In Style. And people found their way to us, because the Sisters had proved their bona fides over the years. I think the sisters have been successful here over the years for a dull reason – because they built up credibility over 150 years of helping people. It’s not always big, flashy things. Sister Carmella started school safety patrols – in which older children help younger children cross intersections. Sister Rita Steinhagen also started the Free Store in the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis, a place where people could get what they need. When she saw that kids didn’t have a place to sleep, she started the Bridge for Runaway Youth. But just putting people in a room doesn’t solve very much. You can keep the rain off heads and still be an incubator for anguish, violence and addiction. Homelessness is just the tip of the iceberg. More than bricks and mortar, people need community. I believe with all my heart that the antidote to violence is community … and dignity … sense of worth. Just “cracking down” on things we don’t like doesn’t solve the problem. Kings and cops and prisons tend to deepen the sense of domination. The way to peace is through peace. Jesus knew that, and it is still our best hope for a loving world. I hear it in the hiphop kids make, and I see it in their parents’ faces. The floorboards in the center at Hope Community came from the old arms plant in New Brighton. Isn’t that great? Talk about swords into ploughshares! ? Char Madigan, CSJ


Tu r n i n g Po i n t


ow I went to jail.

A turning point is the moment when you change and there is no turning back for you. For me it happened when I was watching a documentary about the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s. I was working at St. Mary’s Junior College, a good Irish girl from an 80-acre farm in Jessenland Township, near Green Isle, Minnesota. As a young nun my life was largely about obedience, without a lot of big decisions to make. I worked in occupational therapy as well as a parttime job at the Free Store. But one day I heard a documentary about Nazi prison camps. “And the German people knew what was happening,” was the refrain. It touched me to the core, because I knew what was going on about two miles from here, the making of cluster bombs, whose only function is to maim and kill. And what had I ever done about that? I kind of joined the peace movement, hanging around the periphery. But then there was a very big demonstration, and the police went wild. I was standing back, afraid of being arrested. But before the day was over I did get arrested. I went over to the bus to see if Sister Kate McDonald was there. A woman gave me a note to give her housemate, to bring her ID to her. A policeman told me I was in a prohibited area, and he tore the note to pieces. He was pushing me, and I saw a policeman pushing Sister Brigid McDonald’s face into the wall. I began moving toward her and the policeman stopped me. He kept walking on my toes, until I lost it, and I stomped on his foot – which was exactly what he wanted me to do. I was charged with interfering with the legal process. It was the most miserable day of my life.

At five o’clock they told me I had better call a lawyer or I would be in jail for five days. But I didn’t know any lawyers. At about 8 o’clock they took me to the courtroom. A peace group got me out on habeas corpus. I felt a kinship with St. Peter because he also betrayed the peace process by taking up the sword. I was so ashamed. But I’m glad for that awful day. I’m less frightened now. I haven’t been like the German people mentioned in the documentary. I have learned so many lessons about nonviolence. One day at the Free Store, a man came in. He was in great distress. I thought maybe we should call the police. But a woman who volunteered with us took the man by the arm and told him, “There’s more good in you than bad.” And the man calmed down and started to weep. I keep a picture by my bed, of a young girl in Iraq, perhaps five years old. It was taken during the bombardment, and you can see the terror on her face, with the war happening all around her. This picture gets me going every morning. I turned into an octogenarian last year, so that makes me old. But I can still go to jail. I can still tell the truth about what is happening. The world itself is at a turning point today. There are powerful people who continue to make money from war, but a lot of other people feel that has to stop. Either we change and learn to live with one another in peace. Or we don’t! ? Marguerite Corcoran, CSJ


Vo i c e s


re you in the right story? Are you in the right universe?

A conversation with Roseann Giguere, CSJ

Q What do you mean when you use the

Sister Roseann has worn many hats, including teaching in junior high school, middle school, and college as well as working in prisons. In 1990, Sister Roseann Giguere, along with Cil Braun and Elizabeth Toohey, founded the Spiritual Guidance and Leadership Program at WomenWell, a St. Paulbased center for spirituality and healing.

A Story has a kind of sacredness about it, because it

phrase ‘origin story’?

is a key. It is how we understand things in our hearts. Your story asks these basic questions: Who am I? Who is God? What is the meaning of life and death?

Q What is your story? A When I was three years old, seventy some years ago, growing up in Minneapolis, my mother died. No one talked to me about her death at the time because I was so young. By the time I was six I was learning my catechism, and I learned that I had a mother in heaven, Mary. I answered that I already had a mother in heaven – my mother! And I talked to her freely as a little girl. I understood, in some way, that she was still with me, but that she lived in the darkness, in mystery, not in everyday life. So I was developing a theology of life and death at age four or five.

Sister Roseann holds a Master of Divinity from United Theological Seminary, along with degrees from the College of St. Catherine and the University of Minnesota.

My story is about living in both darkness and light. Darkness is not evil in this story. It is what we do not know with certainty. I like to say that darkness does not ask us to wait one minute for the light to come.

Q So what does this darkness story have to do

Roseann Giguere, CSJ

with spiritual direction?

A The origin story for Christianity has been the story

It was in seminary that her group conceived of a program of spiritual development that used a different “story” about the nature of life on earth. Her take on stories is poetic and provocative.

of the fall and, subsequently, the story of Jesus. Jesus was all about stories, about forgiveness and love, and we make great use of his stories. But there is another origin story that we have paid less attention to. It is the story of the universe, the story of creation. And this story has been of great use to us in spiritual direction since World War II, when the Holocaust did such damage to the way people thought about God the great rescuer. If God could not be called upon to rescue

We asked Sister Roseann to tell us the meaning of these stories.


Vo i c e s

In this story, death is not just the product of Adam’s sin. Death is not the enemy. Rather, death is a part of life. It is a part of the story. In this story, Holocausts happen, but God’s love persists. In the new story, God is loving energy field. Because God created everything, everything is holy – the universes, the humans, and within that, the divine.

us, who was God, and who were we? The story of the universe tells us that there was darkness, and then there was light. It is the story of a universe that is in balance, that requires light and dark, as part of its nature.

Q Darkness is not evil, as we sometimes think? A No. I wrote a poem years ago that said that

Q Can you explain how these ideas actually

darkness is our mother. It is mystery, what we came from and are going to. It is what we do not quite know. Early on some of our explorations were into the motherly aspect of God. We are all familiar with the masculine roles of creator, savior, and guiding spirit. The feminine divine reminds us that God is also mother, lover, and friend.

connect to a person’s spiritual progress?

A The universe story articulates three useful principles. The first is that everything has its own interiority, that everything is real, and has meaning. The second is that everything is in communion with everything else, that nothing stands apart from everything, that alienation is a delusion. The third is the world is always progressing toward greater diversity, and that this is a positive outcome, that we are all blossoming into what we are, and everything is different, nothing is generic.

Q This is controversial.

A Yes, because it is about change. Changing the story means thinking more broadly. The serpent in the Genesis story was characterized as the wisest of creatures. Why? Because the serpent was closest of all creatures to the earth, it could hear the earth’s heartbeat. The other story is that God cursed the serpent to crawl on its belly!

These three notions form the basis for moral action. In our lives we must ask ourselves: How do I treat the earth I live in? What practices do I live my life by? How do I honor the lives of others?

Q So what is the universe story? A In that first burst of life, the first big bang, every

One way we can mark our progress is to assess how we are doing along these three dimensions. And if we are noticeably coming up short in one or another dimension, that is an area for us to work on. The problem with addiction, for instance, goes beyond the substance or behavior we are addicted to – we are out of whack with the universe. We’re not going to heal, or grow, until we get with the story. ?

proton, neutron, electron, everything was created then. It gives new meaning to “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.” In the beginning was energy, and that energy was love. This is a God of fathomless love but also a God of darkness.




heology among the Hedgerows.

A New Hedgerow School When English rule outlawed Catholic schools in Ireland in the 18th century, teachers and students gathered in barns, sheds, and hedges outdoors to teach Irish language, culture, and Catholic faith. These clandestine “hedge schools,” subversive from the British viewpoint, proved indispensable to the survival of Irish culture and faith. The Hedgerow Initiative, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ), borrows the hedge metaphor to name its seminars for adults that explore women’s theological wisdom and creativity. “Women gained access to theology as a field of study in the mid-20th century,” says Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ, a leader of the project. “Their new questions have reclaimed women’s significance in the Bible and Church. The seminars Joan Mitchell, CSJ engage adults seeking to deepen their spiritual lives and explore contemporary theologies. “The hedge metaphor takes theology into the natural world,” Sister Joan adds. “Ecology and women are both central in Hedgerow seminars. Now that we understand the cosmos as a product of a long evolution, we view creation in a new way and find the holy emerging in everything that is.”



Safe Haven

Reading of Mark, Sister Joan encourages Christian women to step beyond the threshold of fear and silence and become witnesses of God’s activity in their lives. “I often begin a presentation with a bit of feminist math,” she says. “Mark’s gospel — the first to be written — has 660 verses. Women are mentioned in only 60 of these verses. I ask for theories about why this is. “Women such as Mary Magdalene, the Syrophoenician woman, and the woman healed of a hemorrhage lead the way from fear to faith in Mark’s gospel,” says Sister Joan. She will teach the spring Hedgerow seminar “New Questions Make All the Difference: Women’s Critical and Creative Dialog With the New Testament.”

While not a formal program leading to a degree, Hedgerow is a serious place to encounter and experience, intellectually and spiritually, the insights of women religious thinkers such as Phyllis Trible, Maria Pilar Aquino, and Karen Baker Fletcher. A Bible scholar, Trible refuses to give up either her feminism or her faith. In hanging on to both, she has rescued the opening chapters of Genesis from interpretations that claimed women were created inferior to men from the beginning. Hedgerow is a safe place to encounter eco-feminist, womanist, and other visions of liberation. Hedgerow is not for Catholics only, or even for women only. Sister Joan describes the demographic as ranging from “the devout to the disaffected.” Joan Pauly Schneider, who assists Mitchell in managing the program and teaches some of the classes, thinks of Hedgerow as a place that fosters critical thinking. “Participants question dominant world views and develop confidence in their own voice, insights, and leadership for change,” says Pauly Schneider. Hedgerow seminars are not for “sponges” but for people who want to name their experience and try out their ideas. Seminars require reading, conversation, short written reflections, and culminating projects. “People today feel inundated with messages of fear and retrenchment,” says Pauly Schneider. “Hedgerow is a bold move to provide a safe haven where inclusive and diverse perspectives thrive.”

The Mystery That Is God Where is God? Since contemporary people have flown the skies and seen our planet from space, we can’t answer “the heavens.” Who is God? Since scientists have discovered our whole cosmos is unfolding from a single burst of energy and still expanding, we have to look again at the mystery that is God. We can only talk about God by making inadequate analogies from our human experience. “Some people think they are losing their faith when they outgrow the grandfather in the white beard God of childhood,” says Sister Joan. “Evolution, feminism, and interfaith work challenge us to keep our images of God big enough to open us to the Mystery.” A cosmos that has evolved over 13.7 billion years hints at a God who is dynamic, creative,

New Questions Change Everything The gospel of Mark ends curiously. Mary Magdalene and two other women discover Jesus’ tomb empty and hear that he is risen. The last verse ends: “Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with terror and amazement. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (16.8). Author of Beyond Fear and Silence: A Feminist Literary



and immersed in creation, rather than distant and unchanging. “Pregnancy offers an analogy for our relationship with God,” says Sister Joan. “The cosmos is in God like a child developing within the mother. Just as the child does not exhaust who the mother is, the cosmos doesn’t exhaust who God is. We meet God in all that is, but God is more.” Panentheism is the word for this view of God. Pan-en-theism means all-in- God.

Starting February 8, a new series of Monday night Hedgerow classes – Women’s Critical and Creative Dialog with the Bible – will focus on the New Testament. For information, go to:


Aquinas, Saint and Questioner

Click on Hedgerow Initiative.

Would St. Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval theologian, be horrified at these images of God? “Thomas was controversial in his own time and engaged the questions of his day,” says Sister Joan. “He organized his great work, the Summa Theologica, around questions. He boldly reframed theology using the philosophy of a non-Christian Greek named Aristotle. Thomas is famous for characterizing his entire scholarly work as straw before his death, acknowledging we can never wholly wrap our minds around Divine Mystery.” Why do we try? Why do we create theologies to reflect on our experience? “It’s who human beings are,” says Sister Joan. “Questioners.” ?

Ann Graham Brock, author of Mary Magdalene, The First Apostle: The Struggle for Authority, will speak at the April 26 seminar about the tension between Mary Magdalene and Peter in the Christian tradition. The seminar welcomes visitors to hear Professor Brock. Cost is $20. Sign up at the above web address, call 651-969-2788, or register at the door.




ou have to change.

The bold moves that the Sisters of St. Joseph are in the habit of making aren’t all about big, institutional changes or projects. The 50-plus years that Liz Kerwin, CSJ, has been a CSJ illustrate how individual Sisters make their own bold moves and re-invent themselves so they can continue to respond to the needs of their times.

In 1984, Carmen Shaughnessy Johnson, a mother of three, was one of the first to become a Consociate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, women and men of diverse lifestyles and faith traditions who commit to living the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ) and Consociates within the context of their lives and responsibilities. As a Consociate, Carmen lives out the CSJ mission in her life and at her job at 3M in Maplewood.

My story is a simple one. I spent years teaching math and science at the high school level, and was perfectly happy doing so – but then I was pulled into a completely different area: spiritual direction. It’s not that science and spiritual direction are oceans apart from one another. In my mind they flow together beautifully – that God created a world that grows, and becomes more. I mean, that is the key thought for the spiritual journey. We are not stuck; we are always in flux. We evolve. A priest asked me, out of the blue, if I would work with him at Loyola Spirituality Center, because he saw me as an open soul. One thing led to another, and for the past 27 years I have been at Loyola, walking alongside people on their journeys. I think sometimes we think of change as the big risk. But my journey has taught me that you have to change. The greater risk is sitting in one place. The work I do is always blind. No one is ever sure what lies ahead. Saint Ignatius had a sense that that was how God works in people’s lives. We go, we do, and if it’s the right thing, the resources will be there. ?

My great grandmother was the first non Native American born in the mid 1800’s in Sibley County, Minnesota. My Dad and I created the first float for the Minneapolis St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1969. In 1972 my husband, Jeff, who was the first Catholic Associate Director in Young Life, and I worked as ecumenical youth ministers within this organization. Then I became one of the first Consociates, a bold move that came naturally to me. In 1982, disillusioned with the church, I attended a workshop on women and men relating in the church. I was looking for a way to connect with other women in ministry. There I learned about an opportunity to join with the Sisters of St. Joseph and create something new. The Consocium of the Sisters of St. Joseph is an ecumenical group of women and men partnered with a network of vowed women whose charism and mission match mine. As a Consociate for 25 years, I live my life and work in the context of the Sisters’ charism of Unity and Reconciliation with the Dear Neighbor. At 3M I work with research and development people to ensure our products and processes have a positive impact on the environment. I’m a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Justice Commission, and we are working this year on the UN millennium development goal #7: “Ensure environmental sustainability.” As a member of the Criminal Justice working group in my home Parish of St Pascal Baylon, we raise money for duffel bags full of necessities for recently released offenders. ?

Liz Kerwin, CSJ

Carmen Shaughnessy Johnson



In September 2004, Mary

than that. They gave her the

a saint or a hero – or be

Follyvi came to Minneapolis from

courage she needed to look

rich and powerful – to do

Togo, West Africa to join her

people right in the eye and

enormous good. All you

husband, who was already here.

have a real conversation with

have to be is willing.

She spoke almost no English. Two

them. “Now I’m not shy to

weeks after arriving, she enrolled

speak, because of this school,”

at Learning In Style, the English

she says. Because of our facility


Language School run by the Sisters

and our faculty, the future looks

of St. Joseph. Mary says, without

promising for Mary and her family.

the warm jacket and hat the Sisters

She’s brave enough, and fluent

to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, please visit www.csjministriesfoundation.org




enough, to consider nursing school.

her, she would

Thanks to all the generous

have frozen her

people just like you who donate to

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

first winter. But

our ministries, thousands of recent

St. Paul Province

they gave her

immigrants like Mary are able to

Ministries Foundation

something even

live more productive, joyful lives.

1884 Randolph Avenue

more important

Remember, you don’t have to be

St. Paul, MN 55105

Or send your check in the envelope we’ve provided to:


Visit us on the web at www.csjministriesfoundation.org for updates on previous articles you read in Possumus.



our bold moves.

All of us have the power to do extraordinary things everyday. Why not try one of these? Promote peace and justice. Join our social network of help and hope on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The back cover directs you to the sites.

Advocate for healthcare, housing, education, and employment. Become a Legislative Advocacy Partner of the Justice Commission LAP Working Group: respond to legislative advocacy alerts and attend our Annual Conversation with Legislators. For information, call Joan Wittman at 651-774-4008.


Visit our ministry sites.

St. Mary’s Health Clinics need drivers and Spanish translators. The Children’s Room at the new CSJ Ministry Center needs volunteers to help out with the children. Call Irene Bohn at 651-690-7026 for contact information.

Visit the new CSJ Ministry Center at 2200 Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis and/or other ministry sites to see first-hand how the Sisters of St. Joseph respond to the needs of the times. Call Lisse at 651-690-7092 to set up a tour.

Give of yourself. Become a financial donor. If you’ve never donated to the Sisters of St. Joseph before, begin by giving $50 a year to support their ministries. If you are already a donor, think about increasing your gift by $50. Financially supporting bold moves is a bold move in itself! ?

Contributors to this issue of Possumus include Mike Finley, writer Ann Fleck/Periwinkle Concepts, design


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Possumus Fall 2009/Winter 2010  

Bold Moves

Possumus Fall 2009/Winter 2010  

Bold Moves