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Daughters of St. Paul: A century of media ministry

July 10, 2015
Sister Nancy Usselmann, FSP

Catholic San Francisco is featuring one religious congregation from the archdiocese in each installment of this periodic column marking the Vatican’s Year of Consecrated Life.

Since the foundation of the Daughters of St. Paul in 1915, methods and means of communication have expanded and developed to ways undreamed of in the past. The congregation began by printing diocesan newspapers in Northern Italy and soon expanded to writing, printing and distributing books, magazines and literature worldwide. Their founder, Blessed James Alberione, of whom the sisters have recently produced a professional documentary film about his life and work, called “Media Apostle” (see www.mediaapostle.com), and available at their Pauline Books & Media store, 935 Brewster Ave., Redwood City, was one of the first biblical film producers in Italy in the 1930s. Today, as apostles of Jesus Christ living in and working through a digital media culture, the sisters are fully immersed in social media – producing iPhone apps, digital magazines, e-books, online retreats, as well as Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and Instagram accounts.

In 1965 Oakland Bishop Floyd Begin invited the sisters to Northern California and a community and book center were established in Oakland. A book center was then opened in San Francisco in 1971; first on Market Street, then on Geary Boulevard. Through that center, the sisters met people from all over the world who visit San Francisco.

As Sister Bernardine remembers, “We were there in the heart of downtown San Francisco reaching out to assist in the spiritual needs of humanity. It was like a microcosm of the world.”

In 2005 the Daughters of St. Paul convent and book center moved to Redwood City and continues to serve all of northern and central California through various media outreach programs. The Daughters of St. Paul are one branch of the 10 institutes founded by Blessed James Alberione. In 2012, the sisters established in Redwood City the branch of lay associates, the Pauline Cooperators. This group shares the spirituality and mission of the Pauline Family within their particular vocation and work while supporting the Pauline mission of evangelization through and within the media culture.

One particular development in their mission has been to provide media literacy education presentations, workshops and retreats to youth, young adults, catechists, parish and ministry personnel. This allows people to create a dialogue between their faith and their media consumption, see God’s grace present in the world and become critical engagers with the popular culture. These sisters who are movie reviewers, film producers, editors, retail managers, recording artists, speakers and presenters follow the footsteps of their patron, St Paul the Apostle who preached the Gospel throughout the ancient world and of whom, Father Alberione would say, “If he were alive today, he would be in front of a microphone and camera to multiply his words.” A local community member and Oakland native, Sister Armanda Santos, says of this centenary, “We are particularly blessed by God for these 100 years to guide people along their faith journey and to discover a rich and profound relationship with God. A book, a song, an app, a movie can be an occasion of a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ.”



NAME OF COMMUNITY: Daughters of St. Paul.

FOUNDING: Alba, Italy, June 15, 1915.

ARRIVAL IN ARCHDIOCESE: Arrived in Bay Area in 1966, first to Oakland and then to San Francisco in 1971.

MINISTRIES: Media evangelization ministry – book and media center and media outreach.

LOCATION: Pauline Books & Media, 935 Brewster Ave., Redwood City.

NUMBER OF MEMBERS: 2,200 members worldwide, five sisters in archdiocese.

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