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The Lace Is Not Finished, Yet

by Kathy Berube, CSJ, Boston 

The following is a summary of our four-day experience in Latham, NY interspersed with some comments and reflections (in italics) from members of the Boston contingent.

On Friday, July 11, 2014, thirteen sisters and associates from Boston joined a group of 49 CSSJs – sisters, associates, and agrégées. We were welcomed by Patty Johnson, CSJ at the Hospitality Center of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Albany. We gathered there to participate in a program - “The Lace Is Not Finished, Yet” – presented by Jane DeLisle, CSJ. 

On Friday evening, we gathered to begin our weekend journey which would take us back to 1650 in Le Puy-en-Velay. We would meet the first Sisters of St. Joseph, spend time with them in the kitchen, walk the streets of Le Puy and journey with Jean Pierre Médaille from his birthplace in Carcassonne over the roads and hills to Le Puy. Throughout the weekend we journeyed back and forth from our past of 1650 to the present imbibing ever more deeply the CSSJ charism and mission.

On Saturday morning, after sharing liturgy and breakfast with the Albany Provincial House community, we gathered at round tables in the conference room which was to be our sacred space – our “kitchen” – for our weekend journey.  On one wall there was a mural titled “Wall of Grace”. The names of our founding women written on the “Wall” were delicately connected with fine black “threads”.  On each table was a piece of Le Puy lace and a candle to which each of us added our own CSSJ artifact which symbolized for us our connection with 1650 Le Puy. We came together around those tables, much like those first six women, to hear our history, to deepen our relationships, to share our stories, to divide the city and respond to the “dear neighbor” – to experience the Great Love of God in a variety of ways.

lace wall of grace2

In our midst was one sister working on small pieces of bobbin lace which would be carried by the Sisters coming to Boston from Springfield.  Throughout the weekend the “lace maker” was another visual reminder of our early days in Le Puy.

Jane De Lisle, CSJ, was the tour guide for our weekend journey.  By means of media, music, and dynamic sharing, she provided input that enabled us to find the “stones” which would slowly build the “Wall of Grace” that began with those first women in 17th century France.  These “stones” would be the fruits of our personal and communal reflections and sharing.

The depth of sharing and level of trust was amazing.

We shared the variety of ways in which each of our congregations live out the CSSJ charism and mission.  Using star-shaped post-its, we each wrote our reflection about our CSSJ mission today. These became our first stones toward building the “Wall of Grace”.

 Hearing the stories of others’ ministries was enriching and gave me food for thought.

I enjoyed the mix of various congregations of Joseph – we are ONE.

Jane introduced us to our first sisters and we spent personal time conversing with one of them via a letter. These letters were shared with those around the tables. By writing our names near those of the first women, we added another “stone” to the “Wall of Grace”.

 I loved the way Jane put faces on the original women – it made them so real for me.

Writing to our first six women brought our history alive.

 Immersed in the milieu and lives of our foremothers, they came alive in our discussion, prayer and sharing.  They – not only our 17th century foremothers but the many Sisters throughout the years on whose shoulders we are standing – mentors, friends, women of vision – are still vibrantly alive and with us in our Communion (Community) of Saints – all part of the threads becoming lace and uniting our past intricately to the present!

We spent time reflecting on the spirituality of place and shared with one another this piece of our individual faith journeys.  Now it was time to go back to 1650 and travel with Jean Pierre Médaille from Carcassonne to Le Puy and reflect upon the influence that Francis de Sales and John Francis Regis had on the founding of the Sisters of St. Joseph. We continued the day’s reflection as we walked through the streets of Le Puy. How did the geography shape the spirituality of our early sisters? What did we see in the streets of Le Puy that spoke to us in our place and time? Identifying today’s needs, we added our petitions - another “stone” for the “Wall of Grace”.

 I got in touch again with our roots.  We are not much different from our founding sisters.

Listening to the needs of the “dear neighbor”, we shared our concerns for the children entering the US along our southern border. After sharing thoughts on how to respond, a collection was taken up to support the efforts of the Sisters from Concordia who are working at Annunciation House on the Mexican border.

The sharing continued as we reflected upon the ways in which the Spirit moves in our lives and identified the graces that sustain us as we strive to live the charism and mission whose seeds were sown in 17th century France. Our sustaining graces written on heart shaped post-its became another “stone”.

I loved the prayer and the sharing of the heart.

As our time was coming to an end, we reflected upon the “Sacred Threads of CSJ Spirituality” – “That all may be one” and the Trinitarian Life – the double trinity – the six ways of living the charism and mission.  Gathered in our weekend “kitchen”, each group formulated a short statement capturing the essence of our charism. These statements written again on post-its became the “capstones” of the “Wall of Grace”.

 There was a strong sense of community.

We are all one – sisters, associates, agrégées, possible candidate.

lace participants boston2We ended this sacred time together with a blessing.  Using water from Le Puy we blessed one another using the Baptism ritual.  Then, prompted by Pat Andrews and the group around her table, we closed our time together by singing Kathy Sherman’s “May the Greatest Love” as a blessing for Jane and Patty who had guided our weekend journey.

After sharing a final meal together, we bid farewell to the Albany sisters whose hospitality was most gracious. Going our separate ways, we carried with us the Great Love of God to be shared so that “all may be One”.

 Boston participants pictured with Jane DeLisle, CSJ: Row 1 - Terry Jardin, CSJ, Jane DeLisle, CSJ, Jeanne Leahy, CSJ, Mary Nagle CSJ; Row 2 - Franny Wool, CSJ, Denise Cohen, CSJA, Jean Plausky, CSJ, Kathy Short, CSJ; Row 3 - Pat Andrews, CSJ, Linda Boothroyd, CSJA, Kathy Berube, CSJ; Row 4 - Mary Joan Lofgren, CSJ, Mary Anne Doyle, CSJ, Joan Travers, CSJA.

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