Our History Calls Us
To learn more about the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph who trace their beginnings to Jean Pierre Medaille, SJ, and six women in LePuy, France in 1650, check our International Center and the various Federations of Sisters of St. Joseph listed below. The International Centre is a collaborative effort of 14,000 Sisters of St. Joseph in 55 countries who recognize the urgent need for better understanding and respect among peoples, cultures and faiths and a deeper care for one another and our planet.
In 1650, the first six Sisters of St. Joseph gathered in LePuy, France. With the assistance of Jean Pierre Medaille, a Jesuit priest, these women, without cloister or habit, formed what they called a “little design” which would enable them to live together in community, pray together and offer their lives to address the needs of the day. They shared a profound desire for union with God and the “dear neighbor,” a term used frequently by Father Medaille. It was a unique idea—religious women, mostly lace makers, who were not in a cloister, who dressed like the women of the day and who went out into the community to respond to the needs of the people! (View a timeline of Father Medaille's life.)
The congregation dispersed or went “under cover” during the French Revolution when five of the sisters (Sisters St. Croix Vincent, Madeleine Senovert, Toussante Dumelin, Marie Aubert and Anne Marie Garnier) were executed by the revolutionaries. Years after, however, the congregation was restored in France by Mother St. John Fontbonne.
In 1836, two centuries after their founding in France, six Sisters of St. Joseph responded to a request from the Bishop Joseph Rosati of St. Louis to come to the United States to teach deaf children. The bishop had been advised to “get the Sisters of St. Joseph because they will do anything; no task is too great” The sisters settled in a log cabin in Carondelet, a small village near St. Louis, Missouri, and founded a school for deaf children. From there the congregation spread rapidly throughout the United States and Canada. The sisters came to New York State in 1858, establishing a school in Oswego, New York. (View the names of the Sisters of St. Joseph who came from France to Carondelet between 1836 and 1887.)
Today, more than 1,500 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet serve in all over the United States and in Peru, Japan, and Chile. They serve (with the same spirit which motivated the first sisters in countless locations) in parishes, schools, healthcare centers, retreat houses, colleges and universities and neighborhood outreach centers. They are fulfilling the words of their founder “to perform all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy of which woman is capable.”
The sisters, nourished by prayer, supported by community and energized by ministry, continue to live in community, support one another and reach out to address the needs of our times. With generosity and joy, they will continue to go where they are called by God to serve God's people.
To learn more about our history, try our Federation site. To look at dates and civil and religious figures who impacted our heritage as a congregation, click on our timeline. To view some of the letters from Father Jean Pierre Medaille, click here. To see our province leaders throughout the years, click here. Take a look at the many Albany-Province CSJ establishments over the years. Watch a trailer of "That All May Be One," a documentary on the Sisters of St. Joseph.
To see the Sisters of St. Joseph family tree, prepared by Sister Kari Pohl, CSJ (Baden), click on the "heart chart" below.