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Edition No. 56 — November 2, 2017 
St. Raphaela Center
Haverford Pennsylvania
September 22-24, 2017
By Pat Mensing SSJ
I n response to a survey sent earlier in the year, 32 of the youngest 10% of our sisters gathered at St. Raphaela Center in Haverford, Pa, the weekend of Sept 22-24, 2017. The gathering consisted of those sisters who fall into this cohort either by age or by entrance year. The survey revealed a desire to have opportunities to get to know each other on a deeper level, a chance to vision together and pray together. The Core Committee of the cohort, Jackie Griffith, Donna Jo Loeper, Maureen MacElderry, Cathy McGowan, Pat Mensing, and Celeste Mokrzycki, worked to provide a weekend that would answer this desire of the group.

Friday night supper was followed by a prayer service led by Celeste and Pat, which featured an iMovie that included the names of all the sisters who are part of this group. Small group sharing centered on the questions: How do I come to this weekend? What are my hopes and dreams? What do I need to let go of in order to fully enter into the weekend? After prayer time, impromptu conversations continued in the dining room before breaking for the night.

Saturday’s agenda opened with Morning Prayer led by Marie O’Hagan. This prayer experience paved the way for the presentation by Sister Mary Rowell CSJ from the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada. Mary’s ministries include retreat ministry, spiritual direction, ecological work at Villa St. Joseph in Coburg, Ontario, Canada, as well as a professor of Theology at St. Michael’s College in Toronto. Mary’s talk, Who are we to each other and who are we together for the world?, challenged the group to view religious life through the lens of Laudato Si . The presentation was followed by more personal contemplative time and sharing in more small groups. 

Prior to Saturday evening liturgy, Michelle and Celeste asked for volunteers to help make their video entitled “#Share the Joy.” The video would feature sisters from all age groups giving their reasons for living joyfully as an SSJ and would be shown during the Fall Gathering. The response to participate was so overwhelming that they were able to wrap up filming that afternoon! Following the “film shoot,” Msgr. James Beisel, pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine in Warrington, Pa, celebrated Saturday liturgy in the chapel. Taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Immaculate Heart of Mary in Roxborough and Archbishop Kennedy High School in Conshohocken, Pa, Jim commented on the connections he had throughout his years of ministry and school with a number of the sisters present at the weekend.

After supper, the group wished to continue sharing around Mary’s presentation in informal gatherings. The evening ended with more time for relaxation, comradery (and S’mores) around the outside fire pit.

Following Sunday’s prayer, Maureen, Michelle, Colleen, and Julie led the group in an experience that was similar to the time they spent at the July Giving Voice gathering (a national event for sisters under 50). This time allowed everyone present to once again break into smaller groups in order to discuss and dream about topics that touched their hearts and filled them with passion. Celeste and Michelle then gave a brief overview of what they are doing in their vocation ministry.

The final activity of the weekend articulated next steps for the cohort. The many responses filled several pages of newsprint and showed a desire to hold future gatherings to deepen what had begun on the weekend. In response to the question, “How can you help in the future?” five sisters have agreed to join the Core Committee of the cohort: Lisa Breslin, Ceil Cavanaugh, Jeanne McGowan, Marie O’Hagan and June Souder.

Marie O’Hagan summed up her experience of the time together, saying, “There was a comfort level in being with people who valued holding all things together — both our present and our future.” 
Pictured from left: June Souder SSJ, Mary Rowell CSJ, Michelle Lesher SSJ, Colleen Gibson SSJ and Julie Fertsch SSJ
Pictured from left: Michelle Lesher SSJ and
Celeste Mokrzycki SSJ
Pictured from left: Cathy McGowan SSJ,
Celeste Mokrzycki SSJ and
Maryanne Zakreski SSJ
Pictured from left: Doris Marie Gonzalez SSJ, Meaghan Patterson SSJ and Sheila Kennedy SSJ
Pictured from left: Julie Fertsch SSJ, Jeanne McGowan SSJ, Cathy McGowan SSJ,
Sheila Kennedy SSJ and Kathy Boyle SSJ
Marie O'Hagan SSJ
Photos courtesy Pat Mensing SSJ

"Our mission as Sisters of Saint Joseph flows from the purpose for which our Congregation exists. We live and work so that all people may be united with God and with one another."
                                         — SSJ Constitutions #16
Editor, Sister Carole Pollock SSJ | 215.248.7269 | cpollock@ssjphila.org | http://ssjphila.org/home/