Responding To Unmet Needs Of The Day
In the "Règlements" (rule of life) for the Sisters of St. Joseph established in France around 1650 we find this statement of purpose: "to lead others to union with God and with every kind of neighbour by undertaking all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy of which women are capable." There were no limits to what they could do.
Some 200 years later, on Oct. 7, 1851, four Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Toronto at the request of Archbishop Armand de Charbonnel to care for poor immigrants who had fled starvation in Ireland. Mother Delphine Fontbonne, pictured above, and three young Sisters were put in charge of a house for orphaned children on Nelson (now Jarvis) Street. By 1854 it was overflowing with Sisters, novices and as many as 75 children.
Today, as Sisters of St. Joseph, we are still ministering in all kinds of creative ways to the poor and disadvantaged in Toronto, in remote areas of Canada, in Haiti and Honduras. We named Fontbonne Ministries, established in 2000, after Mother Delphine. Like our other ministries, it continues this tradition of responding to current social needs in many ways. Fontbonne Place, Mustard Seed, Village Mosaic, Studio on the Hill, In Good Company, and Faith Connections are ways we nurture community and assist with the food, shelter, life skills, spiritual and social needs of our neighbours.
This year, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto will celebrate 160 years of responding to unmet needs, some unchanged, others evolving with the passage of time. The Maxims of Jean-Pierre Médaille, spiritual father of the earliest communities, capture the spirit which still guides our lives in the building and nurturing of community with those he called "the beloved neighbour."
By Grace Sauvé CSJ