Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletMay 27, 2020

Sisters' Stories

Sister Joan Sauro, CSJ (Sister Joan Stanislaus)

As grace would have it, I stepped into kindergarten at St. Brigid’s School in Syracuse at the same time that Anne Frank stepped into a secret annex in Holland. There she and her family hid from the Nazis. While I was learning my ABC’s, Anne Frank was lighting a candle and writing a diary, so that darkness would not have the final word. Thanks to the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught me, I read Anne Frank’s diary and years later was inspired to publish my own.

Those childhood days, our family used to visit Zia Angie and Uncle Patsy on Sunday afternoons. We children sat like soldiers in the stiff parlor chairs, while the grownups nursed small glasses of wine, and darkness slowly descended in the room. On cue, the radio was turned on and The Shadow came out and slid across the dark parlor. Always with that dire warning: “Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man. The Shadow knows!” I sat near the only light there was, next to Zia Angie’s best lamp. It had a hundred pencil thin crystals hanging around the rim. Whenever the Shadow came near, I slid my finger along the bottom of the crystals and set in motion a host of tingling bells, the play of a hundred thousand lights against the dark.
In my late teens, I put on the wedding gown that my Aunt Margaret had made and walked up the long, polished aisle of St. Joseph’s chapel ablaze with lights. At the altar of God, I exchanged my white dress for the black habit of the sisters of St. Joseph. In her late teens, Joan of Arc, wearing a shapeless dress, walked barefoot and in chains. She stumbled up a few steps to a stake where she was tied and burned to death. For insubordination, it was said, for heresy. I inherited Joan of Arc’s name, her tendency to listen to unauthorized voices, her heart that burned bright in the flames and was not consumed, her ambivalent history with a church that martyred her one year and canonized her the next.
Thus armed, I carry Anne Frank’s diary, Joan of Arc’s spirit, and Zia Angie’s lamp wherever I go. Sometimes I bring the lamp into retreat houses, into church basements, libraries and classrooms filled with children, sometimes into my sister, Pat’s, welcoming parlor. I shine the lamp into the hearts of people small and big. In the light they write about their hopes and dreams, about innocence lost, a confident voice found, about layers and layers of themselves they never knew were there. Together we write a hundred thousand words against the dark.
Some morning go out early when the rising sun lights up the dewy lawn in shimmers. Look closely and you will find each blade of grass holding a tiny globe of light on its tip. Those twinkling lights dart across the lawn, now here, now there, now everywhere.
Each Sister of St. Joseph is like a blade of grass lit by the Light of the World. Each of us holds our light aloft in every new day. All together, the lights that we are shine, lights beyond numbering, moving over the lawn, up the hills, down the valleys and across the earth. I am one of those lights among you. Such a shine of gladness is in my heart.