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Sisters of St. Joseph's service legacy lives on through Fontbonne Ministries

This article is reprinted with permission from The Catholic Register, Oct. 10, 2010.
For the past decade, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto have been responding to the social needs of their community through Fontbonne Ministries.

And on Oct. 1, the Sisters celebrated Fontbonne Ministries' 10th anniversary with an open house at Fontbonne Place, a residence that provides affordable, rent-geared-to-income housing for older, single women. 

"At their chapter in 1998, (the Sisters) agreed that nurturing community with the homeless, the alienated, the economically poor and women at risk was what they wanted to continue to do," said Leanne Kloppenborg, administrator of Fontbonne Ministries. 

"The founding of Fontbonne in 2000 was so that there would be a vehicle for the Sisters to sustain their ministry into the 21st century." 

Named after Sr. Delphine Fontbonne, who came to Toronto with three other Sisters of St. Joseph in 1851, Fontbonne Ministries is nothing new for the Sisters of St. Joseph. 

It is a series of ministries that continues the Sisters' long tradition of nurturing community and assisting with the food, shelter, education and health care needs of their neighbours. 

The first of the Fontbonne Ministries was Mustard Seed, an outreach centre in South Riverdale where participants have the opportunity to cook, sew and learn about computers.

"And they kept adding in ministries as the need arose," said Kloppenborg.

The In Good Company program followed in 2002.

"The Sisters recognized that many people are isolated in their homes," Kloppenborg said. "They have nobody to visit them and they're very lonely and in need of a friendly visit. So they established the program to visit people all over the city who just need... somebody to come and share with them and be a presence in their lives."

Emotional, spiritual and social support is offered through regular home visits, safety reassurance calls, short outings and occasional shopping trips.

Another program is Studio on the Hill, which offers participants opportunities to work with clay through in-studio classes.

"Working creatively with clay is very healing and a way to nurture creativity but also community with people," said Kloppenborg.

And Village Mosaic is a program where isolated seniors in Etobicoke join together for community building and recreation.

"Some of the Sisters teach bridge. "There's euchre, there's different games and crafts that they do. They do line dancing and they've started to do some gentle exercises," she said. "It's about socializing, about meeting your neighbours in a safe place and it's very warm and welcoming — the way the Sisters are."

Faith Connections is the last ministry, whose work is inviting young adults between the ages of 18 and 39 to participate in faith-related events to promote spiritual growth and community building.

"It's wonderful to celebrate 10 years of this sort of ministry in Toronto," said Kloppenborg. "What I think is most amazing is that many of these Sisters are on their third or fourth careers already. And here they are providing this wonderful service to the city of Toronto."

by Vanessa Santilli

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