A Reflection on the 370th Anniversary of the Founding of the Sisters of St. Joseph

A reflection by Mary Fromknecht, SSJ

October 15th marked the 370th Anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of St. Joseph in LePuy, France.

This passage is the foundation of each of our spiritual lives—our God’s promise to dwell among us and be with us forever.

In the the1650s, our first sisters heard this very same reading from Revelations:

       “The first heaven and the first earth have passed away.”

What those sisters knew and lived had truly passed away in 17th century France. Life as they knew it had forever changed. They faced war, famine, cruelty, death, fear. They had to wonder what would become of them and their “little design.” They heard God’s voice, “I am with you. l will dwell with you. You are my people! My beloved.”

They believed and struggled through war and devastation in order that the “little design” might live and be, and grow large and worldwide.

We, in 2020, have just heard that same reading:

“The first heaven and the first earth have passed away.”

And yes, what we knew of our lives on January 1, 2020, and what we know today, 10 months later, of living, being, and moving, is very different from what we planned and expected our lives to be today.

While our experience is very different from that of our foremothers, we have been given the same promise from our God as we live in the midst of a pandemic for which we were not prepared and during which we have come to know a whole new way of living life.

We here personally have not known famine, cruelty, fear, death, but large numbers of people around the world have known and suffered greatly from the pandemic. What is our suffering? Confinement? Lack of interpersonal connections? Boredom? And even fear? Yes, as humans we wonder “will this ever be over?” much like our foremothers must have done in the 17th century. Their sacrifices and trust in God’s promises brought us and hundreds of Sisters of St. Joseph around the world to today, for which we are grateful. We are blessed. COVID has not personally touched our lives here. We read about it, hear about it daily, and are called to continue trusting in our God who dwells among us every day of our lives. Our suffering is little in relation to our first sisters. It is little in relation to the struggle of the living and dying around the world from the pandemic.

Let us continue to pray daily for all who suffer from this illness and give thanks for our continued good health, remembering always God’s promise to dwell with us today and forever.

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