On Thursday evening I was at a nearby parish here in New Jersey giving a presentation on human trafficking. Afterwards, a number of folks came up to speak with me. More than one asked if I was in the same community as Sister ____. In each case, I was able to say yes. When I did, the person's eyes would light up and a smile would cross their face. It was clear that the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace have made a lasting impression on the people they taught, worked with, and served over the years here in Bergen County.
Today I also had the chance to walk the grounds of our property here on the banks of the Hudson river. It was a glorious day, and while I spent most of the day inside it was nice to have this time to enjoy the beauty of God's creation.
As I was walking, I thought how interesting it was to come home again. No, this is not my home now. But it was at one point, and it has been one of the centers of CSJP life since Margaret Anna Cusack first bought this property more than 125 years ago to provide a place of rest and respite for working women from the city. Later, this became an orphanage for boys, the novitiate for a growing community, and in time both a center of prayer and to care for our elder Sisters.
While the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace have a long standing presence here in Bergen County, NJ, we also are part of the present, history and future of Jersey City, NJ. This week's Jersey Journal has a great story about one of our ministries there, the York Street Project, and the ministry of Sister Maureen D'Auria, CSJP in particular. Here's a snippet, but you can read the whole article here:
“I love uniting with the women and children around natal health and health care issues,” said D’Auria, a Brooklyn native, whose high school teachers attracted her to the Peace Sisters. Back in 1891 her religious community built an orphanage, which is now St. Joseph Home, and a residence for single working women, still St. Mary’s Residence, at York and Washington Streets. Most were closed for a long time until the religious community refurbished and reopened them with a new vision and new missions reflecting reforms these Sisters embraced.
These new ventures are replicated all over the U.S. by nearly 2,000 religious communities of women. D’Auria mentioned that one of the former residents said about her stay at St. Joseph Home, “This is the holy ground where I began my life.” I think this can be said about the ministry of any of the 57,000 Sisters in this country.