In June, our 2019-2020 U.S. Federation novices completed their shared novitiate year. The year started in August 2019 with the coming together of the novices: Rachel Carey (Rochester), Kristina DeNeve (Carondelet-St. Louis), Trish Doan (Orange), and Leila Sullivan (Springfield) and the Federation novice directors, Sisters Michelle Lesher (Philadelphia) and Barbara Staropoli (Rochester).
Though the year ended with the novices returning to their home communities, we are proud of all the challenges the novice directors and novices overcame this year. Sisters Barbara and Michelle designed a program that included new and creative ways for the novitiate community to come together in spirit and solidarity. Novices committed to keeping their daily novitiate schedule. Presentations, prayer, and State of the Heart all continued via Zoom. The local home communities benefited from the novices sharing their experiences and responses from the daily presentations. The entire novitiate community was a witness to faithfulness during a difficult and challenging time.
The novices still had their closing ritual in June 2020, albeit virtually. The closing ritual concluded with a blessing given by Sisters Barbara and Michelle to the novices as they continue their journey of becoming who they are. As part of the closing ritual, the novices give a presentation about their experience. Below are some of the reflections from that ritual, including a video presentation.
Reflection from Leila Sullivan (Springfield):
What were the most transformative experiences of this novitiate year with regard to presentations, ministry, and life in community?
There were many transformative experiences during this past year. The presentations showed me what it means to be a Sister of St. Joseph. I particularly liked the presentation on the history of the congregation. I love history and to hear how our first sisters accomplished so much while overcoming such
difficulties was inspiring. Just the difficulties in traveling at that time was an almost insurmountable obstacle. Yet they came all the way from Lyon, France to Carondelet, MO under the sponsorship of Felicité de Duras, the Countess De La Rochejacquelein, and at the invitation of Bishops from throughout the United States and from there spread out across the United States.
I also found the presentation on the vows very interesting. The vow of poverty and its call to live simply, the vow of chastity and its call to an all inclusive love and the vow of obedience and its call to a life of discernment, it all resonates with me. The presentation gave me a clearer understanding of what the vows mean and how I can integrate and live them out in my life.
In my ministry I was actually able to interact with the poor and marginalized instead of just walking by them on my way to the office. I never had an opportunity to volunteer before and serving at St. Peter’s Kitchen was incredible. This experience deepened my empathy and compassion towards the poor and gave me a greater understanding of the challenges they face. I was able to experience one more form of community this past year. Living with such a large group of people (for me) was challenging but I feel that I met that challenge successfully. Living outside the Western Massachusetts area for the first time was exciting and challenging. I was definitely stepping outside my comfort zone. Being away from my family and friends, from everything that is familiar, was jarring, but what an experience!
The various community experiences I’ve had sense joining the congregation have emphasized the difference between living in a large family and living in community. The weekly meetings with Barbara were very meaningful for me. A number of assumptions I had regarding society and the world in general at the beginning of this year have been challenged, for example, my awareness of systemic racism has grown. My perception and horizons have been expanded. Many people have told me how much I’ve grown. I never really saw it myself but as I reflect on this past year I’m beginning to notice the changes in me.
Overall, how did this experience of the Federation Novitiate support your discernment as a Sister of Saint Joseph?
I’ve wanted to be a sister since I was a child. The experience of the Federation Novitiate helped me in my discernment about becoming a sister and join the Sisters of St. Joseph. I found that the religious life has much to offer and I am looking forward to the next step!