The Sisters of St. Joseph, Carondolet, Missouri

In the year 1834 the Right Rev. Joseph Rosati of St. Louis, Missouri, called at the mother-house of the Sisters of St. Joseph at Lyons and asked Mother St. John Fontbonne, the superior, to send a colony of her daughters to America. Arrangements were soon perfected, and on 17 January, 1836, six sisters sailed from Havre and, after a perilous voyage of forty-nine days, reached New Orleans, where they were met by the Bishop of St. Louis and Father Timon, afterwards Bishop of Buffalo. They arrived at St. Louis on 25 March. The house, a small log cabin, which was to be the central or mother-house of the future congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, was located at Carondelet, a small town six miles south of St. Louis. At the time the sisters arrived at St. Louis, this humble house was occupied by the Sisters of Charity, who there cared for a few orphans soon after transferred to a new building. While waiting for or their home, they received a call from Cahokia, Illinois, where a zealous Vincentian missionary desired the help of the sisters in his labours among the French and Creole population of that section. Three religious volunteered for this mission. The people among whom the sisters laboured in St. Louis were poor and rude, and apparently destitute of any taste for either religion or education. These obstacles seemed but to increase the zeal of the sisters, and by degrees postulants were received, parochial schools and asylums opened, and new works begun in various parts of the diocese. As early as 1847 foundations were made in other sections of the United States. In 1837 the first American member of the order, Ann Eliza Dillon, entered the novitiate, proving of great advantage to the struggling community, with her fluency in French and English. She died, however, four years later. The community increasing in proportion to its more extended field of labour, a commodious building was erected to answer the double purpose of novitiate and academy, the latter being incorporated in 1853 under the laws of the State of Missouri. On 31 July, 1877, Pius IX, by special Brief, confirmed the institute and constitutions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Thus, with the sanction of the Church came the unification of communities in various dioceses with the mother-house at Carondelet, now in the city of St. Louis.

The congregation is at present (1910) divided into four provinces: St. Louis, Missouri; St. Paul, Minnesota; Troy, New York; Los Angeles, California. The superior general and four general councillors, elected every six years by the whole congregation, form the general governing body, assisted by a superior provincial and four provincial councillors in each province. The provincial officers are appointed by the general officers every three years, as also are the local superiors of all the provinces. In each provincial house, as in the mother-house, a novitiate is established. The term, of postulantship extends from three to Six months, the term of novitiate two years, after which annual vows are taken for a period of five years, when perpetual vows are taken. All are received on the same footing, all enjoy the same privileges, and all are subject to the same obedience which assigns duties according to ability, talent, and aptitude. Although an interchange of members of the various provinces is allowed and made use of for general or particular needs, the autonomy of each province is safeguarded. The constitutions, while establishing on a solid basis the idea of a general government, allow no small share of local initiative and carefully provide for local needs. In this way too much centralization or peril to establishments working in accordance with local and special exigencies is fully guarded against. The congregation now (1910) numbers 4 provinces, with 1802 sisters, in charge of 125 educational institutions, including colleges, academies, conservatories of music and art, and parochial schools, with an attendance of 40,848; 17 charitable educational institutions, including orphan asylums, Indian, Coloured, and deaf-mute schools, with an attendance of 2121; and 10 hospitals, with an average of 8285 patients.

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1911)

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