Latest News from the Sisters of Saint Joseph

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Edition No. 184—September 10, 2021 
Divine Providence Village Residents 
Visit Saint Joseph Villa
August 24, 2021
Divine Providence Village in Springfield, Delaware County, is an Intermediate Care Facility for men and women with developmental disabilities. The Village is located on a picturesque 20-acre campus that includes an outdoor swimming pool, chapel, recreational pavilion and, a full-service kitchen that prepares specialized meals for all residents, and those that participate in the day program.

Sister Mary Veasy SSJ is the Pastoral Minister at Divine Providence Village. Sister Susan Lindinger SSJ serves as  Volunteer Coordinator for Divine Providence Village and Don Guanella Village.

On August 24, 2021 Mary and Sue brought two of the ladies from Divine Providence out to the Villa for a very special visit. Sue explains, “Our guardian Angel, Sister Mary Pat Rilley SSJ, has been a pen pal to Mary M., who has been wanting to meet her for some time. We are bringing another resident, Lori F, and they are both excited about the visit. 

Yesterday afternoon was a wonderful experience for all. I cannot tell you their excitement in preparing to go on this visit. Mary and Lori talked about it for days.
On the way home, Mary thanked God for a wonderful time. The welcome by all was true SSJ hospitality!”
Pictured from left: Lori giving Sister Irene Dunn SSJ flowers as she is warmly welcomed to the Villa.
Pictured from left: Lori, Mary Veasy SSJ, Julie Gabell and Mary
Pictured from left: Mary Pat Riley SSJ and Mary—Pen Pals for life!
Pictured from left: Mary Veasy SSJ, Lori, Mary William Herron SSJ and
Mary Pat Riley SSJ
Lori in the Chapel praying for the sisters
Photos courtesy Sue Lindinger SSJ
Sister Charlene Kostuk SSJ
Casa Alitas and More 
Tucson, Arizona  
During my childhood, my Down Syndrome older sister formed me, as I became who I am. My brother gave me a dissecting set and the vision of surgery was rooted in my core. Then, the sisters of my grade school intrigued me. Medicine or religious life; how can one do both?  The clinic at St John's here in Newark, where I work as a Physician’s Assistant-Certified, has transformed me. Three years ago, I had a dream, a plan; to offer what medical services I could to the marginalized. This concept evolves day by day. 

When the invitation to help at the border was presented, I put it aside and prayed about it. Little did I know Casa Alitas in Tucson had a medical clinic. Everything fell into place. 

Casa Alitas is located in Tucson, Arizona. Sister Eileen, an 85-year-old Sister of Saint Agnes, founded the clinic to care for immigrants and refugees. (my hero!) She recruited doctors and staff and did much to welcome and care for the guests. Sister Eileen was then instrumental in relocating the clinic and the services of Catholic Charities at a closed juvenile detention center, now known as Casa Alitas, Wings House. People come from Central America, Mexico and South America, Cuba and Jamaica. These guests are escaping the Cartel and gangs, poverty and extortion. They want a better life for their children and themselves. 
Buses bring 80 to 180 people to Casa Alitas each day. Recently, I heard 300 a day. They call their loved ones and tell them they are safe. A nursing team tests everyone for Covid-19. The guests are served hot soup, given shoelaces and we ask about medical needs. Each child is given an age appropriate "activity bag" with little toys and coloring book.  Every family has a sponsor here in the US. Staff calls the sponsor who is responsible for transportation to their destination and make their flight arrangements, etc. Then the family is given a room with 2 beds, a sink, toilet, clean clothes, linens and toiletries. 

Our Guests stay at Casa Alitas between twelve and thirty-six hours, waiting to get to their destinations. It was during this time our Guests came to the medical team with their medical and physical issues. I fell in love all over again, I was right at home. I knew deeply that everything  led me to this moment, my life experiences and our SSJ charism. 

My second week, Trish Feely, a school nurse from Montclair, NJ joined me. Trish and I purchased a much-needed printer and supplies for the medical office. Trish purchased $750 worth of underwear and was rightfully named a superhero: "Captain Underpants". We bought everything from lollypop cough drops for the children complaining of sore throats, cases of water for electrolyte water, $500 of new toys and whatever else we could replace that was needed. 

I was transformed during those two weeks.My pictures tell the story better than I ever could. I will never be the same. I will go back. I know now I can do better, more for those in Newark. I am so proud to be a Sister of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Pa. 
Pictured right: Charlene Kostuk SSJ with a guest
Photos courtesy Charlene Kostuk SSJ
Catholic Charities Respite Center LaFrontera
Laredo, Texas  August 14-28
Sister Lisa Olivieri SSJ and Sister Fran Ratay SSJ
Fran and I arrived in Laredo on August 14th minus our luggage, which did not arrive until Monday evening. The days without luggage were a small reminder of how much I have and do not need.

The first day at the Center, we were given a brief tour and told that we could oversee the clothing room and the laundry. That day several fathers with young daughters arrived. Also, mothers, daughters and sons. They came from Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua—with just what they had on their backs.

No one has shoelaces when they arrive, so getting a pair was one of the first things they look for. One day, a little girl was with her mother who was trying to find something for herself. She started to play hide and seek with me, running around screeching and laughing. It was so good to hear. At some point she called me Grandma. Not knowing Spanish, I did not know that is what she called me!

I spent more time in the laundry than the clothing room since you did not need to know Spanish to wash, dry, fold and put away sheets and towels. As I wrote in my journal—laundry, laundry and more laundry! I also cleaned bedrooms and made up the beds every day. We sprayed Lysol on everything, swept the floor, emptied trash and put fresh sheets on the beds. The air conditioning was not working, so it was very hot work. However, not nearly as hot as the conditions that those using the rooms had come through.

Usually, people coming to the center stay from 6 to 18 hours. I played ball on the floor with a little boy while in the clothing room. A little girl in the clothing room wanted an apple. Later she sat with Fran and me as her mother went to try on some clothes. Both she and her daughter felt safe enough to let her daughter out of her sight for a few minutes—something many of them were not able to do before coming to the Center.

It took us over 30 hours to get home. If we were anxious to get to our destination how much more those we met there.

I am truly grateful for the eye-opening and heart wrenching experience. Although Laredo is in Texas, it is literally a stone’s throw from Mexico. Most speak more Spanish than English—much more Mexican influence.
We truly are a diverse nation—if we could just recognize the beauty in that diversity and in those seeking our shores.
Pictured right: Lisa Olivieri SSJ in the laundry room
Photos courtesy Lisa Olivieri SSJ
Villa Zoom—Inside Out and Upside Down

by Julie Gabell, SSJ Associate
The world is in a topsy-turvy muddle: inside out, upside down and backwards! As Villa Zoomers met during these past weeks, United Press International wired news of one natural disaster after another and left the entire world hanging numb on lines of shock and disbelief. Hurricanes, tornados, fires, floods, earthquakes, climate change, and volcanic eruptions stunned us. COVID-19 reemerged with its variants—along with killer bees and spotted lanternflies. Add to these shattering events, the massive people problems of Afghanistan, immigration, gun-violence, racism, and non-stop political bickering, and most of us want to stash our iPads and turn off the TV.
When in our lifetimes have we seen such a crazy mix of environmental disaster and human folly? What type of indifference has allowed this to happen? Can we turn back Mother Nature’s downward slide? Such questions make us ponder.

Though it is often hard to see it, some good has, in fact, emerged from our topsy-turvy world. Breaks in routine have forced us to restructure our lives and consider what really matters. We have found new ways to connect with ourselves and our families; realized how important community is for our mutual survival. Education has taken on a virtual stance, gearing us toward learning in the future. We have seen medical and scientific advances beyond anyone’s expectation. Aware that we can do things that seemed impossible, we are better able to make sacrifices for the common good. However dire the situation, disasters provide hidden opportunities to make lemonade from some pretty sour lemons. 

Nature has given us a wake-up call. Awareness of forces that plague the earth is essential. Are we listening?
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"With the help of God's grace and in fidelity to our founder's expressed wish, we live and work lovingly among all persons with a special preference for those who are poor, which calls us wherever we are to be in union with them."
                         — SSJ Constitutions #21
Editor, Sister Carole Pollock SSJ | 215.248.7269 | |