This Monday, November 22, is the anniversary of Mother St. John Fontbonne’s death. Some people have written and asked if I had a prayer for her anniversary. Rather than re-invent the wheel, so to speak, I’m sharing what I sent last year at this time.
2008 year marked the 200th year since Mother St. John Fontbonne officially refounded the congregation after the French Revolution. The French Revolution violently disrupted the lives of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The Congregation was outlawed, the right to teach was withdrawn and the sisters were denounced as unpatriotic, fanatics and enemies of the people and the Revolution. Mother St. John Fontbonne was among those imprisioned for remaining faithful to the church and refusing to go along with the attempts of the revolutionary government to make Catholicism into a state religion.
Many religious congregations experienced similar upheaval as a result of the revolution. In 1807 while France was still rebuilding in the aftermath of the revolution, Jeanne Fontbonne was asked to gather together a diverse group of women, from several Congregations and to shape them into a new Congregation of St. Joseph in Lyon, France. In time, she also sent novices to America to establish a new mission in what was considered an uncivilized land.
During this season, we Sisters of St. Joseph and Associates who trace our roots to Lyon, France, remember the anniversary of the death of Mother St. John Fontbonne who died on November 22, 1843. Last year, for the 200th anniversary of this “refounding,” there was a huge celebration in Lyon. Another sister from the Chambery/West Hartford congregation and I were asked to prepare prayer resources for use by all the sisters in the U.S. We put the resources together in a CD and it was distributed to all congregations when the Communicators met in Albany. It was a real privilege to prepare that prayer and a bit humbling to realize that sisters and associates all over the United States were using it as they joined in prayer in their local communities.
This year our Sisters in London, Ontario
, shared a prayer service which was sent to all our sisters and associates. The sisters in my local community used it in our evening prayer this week. I’ve heard many other sisters speak of using this prayer as they gathered in their local communities. Not only did our sisters and associates remember Jeanne Fontbonne this week. Fontbonne Academy
, one of our Sponsored Ministries, gathers the entire school together each year to celebrate the life and legacy of Jeanne Fontbonne. I was able to be present for this year’s celebration. It’s so inspiring to witness the way the young women at this school are learning about the woman of courage after whom their school is named. On this anniversary of her feast, it is inspiring to witness how the qualities of Jeanne Fontbonne and the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph flows through the veins of the students and learning community of Fontbonne Academy.
I’m pretty sure that pictures of the prayer service will be posted on their website
We are women who in mutual trust and respect, value the diversity of our gifts as we support one another in our daily life and ministry.
All: May our lives continue to be a response to the great gift of Life entrusted to us. May all who come into our presence and consciousness experience the blessings of Life.
We are women called to be one with the oppressed, the weak and the suffering of the world.
All: May Love be our inspiration and our action, drawing all into the communion of love.
We are women called to use our energies to respond to the needs around us
and to consider the form which our service will take.
All: May our “Yes” continue to bring healing and hope to others.
We are women who celebrate our legacy and desire to live faithfully and creatively into the future in the same spirit as Mother St. John.
All: May we be on fire with the great mission entrusted to us as Sisters of St. Joseph and celebrate our oneness in God.
Closing PrayerLoving God, you have blessed our story with great women of courage and zeal. As we continue to live our call today, may all we do be alive with the power of your love. May we discover the life that comes from the call of our times and live in faith, in hope and in love. Amen.
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