2.20.2007

the name game

I'm home sick getting over some kind of nasty flu bug. I was just checking e-mail in between naps, and saw this comment from Andrea to my last post (although really it's a comment to my post about the book Last on the Menu):
I read "Last on the Menu" that you had mentioned recently. (Interlibrary loan is such a good thing!)

I'm curious -- the author talks about entering the Sisters of St. Joseph of Newark. When did they become the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace? Did they start in New Jersey and then expand to the Pacific Northwest?
Good question! And like most good questions, it has a somewhat complicated answer.

My community of groovy sisters was founded in 1884 in Nottingham, England as "St Joseph's Sisters of Peace of the Immaculate Conception." Quite the mouthful! We were founded by Margaret Anna Cusack, known as Mother Francis Clare in religion. According to the 1884 Constitutions, the "object of this Institute is, as its name implies, to promote the peace of the Church, both by word and work. The very name Sisters of Peace will, it is hoped, even of itself, inspire the desire of peace and a love for it."

Margaret Anna was an advocate for the poor and women. She led a complex and troubled life, most often when it came to dealing with the Church hierarchy. Realizing that her personal reputation would prevent the community from doing the good work she founded it to do, she left the community in 1888 so that it would thrive. And thrive it did ... By the early 1890's the community was ministering in England, New Jersey and the Pacific Northwest.

In 1895 the community receieved a Decree of Praise from the Vatican as the "Sisters of St Joseph of Peace."

In 1929 Rome gave final approval to the Congregation and changed the name to "Sisters of St Joseph of Newark," as the generalate was located in the Diocese of Newark. This name change did not come from out of the blue. Over the years the community's leadership had desired such a change. In 1908 the Superior General & Council had sent a request to Rome asking that the word "Peace" be removed from the title of the institute because of "its associations with the first foundress, Sister Mary Francis Clare." They asked that the name be changed to Sisters of St Joseph of the Holy Family - a name which thankfully was not approved.

Over the years, even the date of the founding was changed (from 1884 to 1888) and the name of Margaret Anna was stricken from the community history. Sisters (like Ellie in Last on the Menu) entered having no idea of the original purpose, name or founder of the community. Her spirit lived on, however, particularly in our work for the poor, women and children.

Like all Religious Communities, we were invited by the 2nd Vatican Council to rediscover the original spirit of our congregation. Beginning in 1967 our Sisters explored the new concept of “charism.” It wasn’t long before they found that the closets contained more than dusty boxes of mementos. From the corners of the past emerged the story of Margaret Anna. By 1970, we were able at a Special Chapter to reclaim our name of Sisters of St Joseph of Peace and to commission further study and research into our true past, history and founder.

Like I said, it's a bit complicated. What is amazing to me is how quickly and how thoroughly we reclaimed our founder, history and purpose. It makes me think that the Holy Spirit was definitely hard at work.

On that note, this groovy-sister-in-training needs to put down the laptop and get back to bed.

2 comments:

xsquared said...

I hope you feel better soon! I had that flu last week.

Garpu the Fork said...

I've got the Martian Death Flu, too. Here's hoping yours clears up soon...