Historically, until the 17th century
religious life was open only to those who brought money, goods or
land to the religious order they wished to join. These orders lived
apart from the common people. However, in the early 1640s amid the
social turmoil of wars and suffering our founders had a different
the misery of the people, a small group of
women came together in LePuy, in south-central
France. They felt compelled to live and work among the
common people, sharing their struggles and their hopes.
Strengthened by the belief that they had a true calling
from God, our group of six women sought the counsel
of a young Jesuit priest, Jean Pierre Medaille, SJ. Under his guidance
and encouragement, the first foundation of the Sisters of Saint
Joseph came into being. The year was 1650. This new community, located
among the poor, served the needs of all and opened religious life
to women of all classes.
In 1789, the French Revolution brought
about the persecution of the Catholic Church and
religious orders of men and women in France. But for
the grace of God, the Sisters of Saint Joseph might have disappeared,
as many sisters went into hiding while others faced imprisonment
and the guillotine for their beliefs.
At the end of the Revolution in 1807, the
community flourished again under the leadership of
Jeanne Fontbonne. More and more, generous and
courageous women bonded together to serve the
needs of their sisters and brothers. The order grew
and branched out. One of these branches became the
Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, founded in 1812
in the town of Chambery in south-eastern France.
in the United States: The North American
Province owes its beginning to Jane Sedgwick of
Stockbridge, MA — a convert to Catholicism. She
desired to establish a Catholic school in Lee, MA.
Since there weren’t enough sisters in the United
States to aid in the running of the school, Jane
eventually went to Rome to appeal to Pope Leo XIII
to send help. In 1885, five sisters of Saint Joseph
of Chambery arrived in Lee to open the school. The
rest, as they say, is history. The foundation spread
roots into Connecticut and eventually into other
parts of the United States.
a View to the World: Today, Sisters of Saint
Joseph of Chambery respond to challenges that include:
violence and abuse, oppression, conflict, hunger,
homelessness, and alienation of families, to name a
few. Our ministries extend across the United States
from coast to coast. The North American Province is
one of 15 worldwide provinces that form an international
Congregation of close to 2000 Sisters. The center of our
Congregation is in Rome. Other Provinces and Regions
are located in Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Czech Republic,
Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, India, Italy,
Mozambique, Norway, Pakistan, Sweden and Tanzania.
into the Future:
We believe that today there
continue to be generous women who share the vision of
our founders. Most likely, they are women like ourselves
who desire to serve others, in God’s name. And no doubt,
they are women of faith who possess great courage and
a willingness to risk. We invite you to join us to make
Jesus’ dream – THAT ALL MAY BE ONE – a living
in our world.