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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sisters from Brentwood and Boston Visit the International Centre

Sr. Line Rioux (front right) leads the group up the hill to The Kitchen, the only physical trace of the founding Sisters of St. Joseph in LePuy in 1650. (left to right) Sr. Joan, Sr. JeanneMarie, Sr. JoAnn (behind Line) and Sr. Bernadette

It was their first time here but Brentwood Sisters Bernadette Westman, Joan Gallagher and JoAnn Squitieri and Boston Sister Jeanmarie Gribaudo, were totally enthralled with LePuy. 

They visited The Kitchen, the only physical trace of the founding sisters of 1650. Afterward, they visited the scenography of the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph from all over the world. (The scenography was opened in September 2016 thanks to a grant from the Anna-Maria Moggio Foundation of Haverford, PA.)

The sisters' impressions of Le Puy revealed not only the connection they felt with the early sisters but with the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph that has endured for over 350 years.

The sisters pose in front of the fireplace that the early sisters used. Sr. JeanneMarie, Sr. Joan, Sr. JoAnn and Sr. Bernadette (left to right)
"As soon as I got off the train I was amazed at how calm and quieting the place was," said JoAnn, who is doing her canonical novitiate this year. "As the days go on, I will be able to be very reflective about what I saw and felt as we walked in the steps of the sisters that founded the Congregation. It was very touching."

Sr. JoAnn will go on retreat in August where she anticipates reflecting on this this trip and gaining a whole new perspective about the Congregation as she prepares for her first profession. 

"I've been hearing about Le Puy and the early sisters for three years now and after living here for five days I have a whole new experience of our beginnings. I'm sure it will deepen my commitment to the Congregation as I look at ways to know that this is the path God wants me to take."

"Le Puy is different from what I expected," said Sr. Jeanmarie, a professor of theology at Merrimack College near Boston. "It is much larger, for example. However, without a doubt, my indelible memory will be walking into that Kitchen and finding it an extremely simple place, a place that speaks of the ordinary. After all, the kitchen is an ordinary part of any home.

"What is so amazing is that the great love of God expanded from that Kitchen to the people of Le Puy and managed to stay alive and grow to the four corners of the earth even though it was often squelched. 

"I believe that the first sisters and that ordinary Kitchen have much to teach us in the United States at this particular time. I believe it is imperative for us to read the signs of the times wherever we find ourselves, particularly as we painfully let go of what has been--except that there will always be a place for the love of God and love of the dear neighbor."

Sr. Bernadette, who is a YouTube aficionado, prepared for the trip by finding websites about LePuy. Among them was a lecture by Sr. Simone who usually provides tours of The Kitchen

"My whole sense of Le Puy was its historical nature," said Sr. Bernadette, a retired teacher and finance director who currently works in a soup kitchen. "Also, so much of the good that the early sisters did was not done on their own but through other people--lay people and benefactors. We do this same thing today. What was most striking to me was the whole idea that the mission is accomplished not just by sisters but by the people we work with."

What Sr. Joan got out of this trip to Le Puy is the life of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the future will lead.

"To say that the early sisters were courageous is an understatement," said Sr. Joan, who is currently in congregational leadership and director of the St. Joseph the Worker Program. "I have felt a real connection to them by previously spending time with the story and Fr. Medaille's writings. It's as though today we are almost back to the foundation that started in Le Puy where we do our work for the great love of God with God and with neighbor. Given the state of our world today, we're still needed!"

As the sisters stood in The Kitchen on the same floor that the early sisters did, they paused for a brief prayer honoring the founders and asked for their guidance into the transitions of the 21st century.

While in Le Puy, the sisters also had an opportunity to participate in the Tour de France festivities as well as to partake in the delicious French food offered in town. They visited Notre Dame Cathedral and St. Joseph Basilica. They also took a day trip to Monistrol in the church where Jeanne Fontbonne and her blood sister entered the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Prior to coming to LePuy, the foursome spent two days in Paris. During the last days of their trip to France they will visit Lyon where Mother St. John Fontbonne re-founded the community in 1803 after the terror of the French Revolution had concluded. 

It has truly been an enlightening experience to spend time and conversation with these four beautiful sisters!


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