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Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet: Called to ‘divide the city’ and care for the dear neighbor

July 24, 2015
Sister Mary Ann Martin, CSJ

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.

After the devastating San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, the Richmond District was rapidly developing. Father Philip O’Ryan, pastor of Star of the Sea Parish, saw a great need. He invited the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet to staff his new school which opened in January 1909 with 137 students in grades one-seven. By the next year he opened a high school which was coeducational until 1927. (A 1914 Star graduate was the beloved actress Gracie Allen.)

Star of the Sea Parish and schools became a rich source of religious vocations. As of 1972, 102 Star graduates had entered and persevered as Sisters of St. Joseph. In addition at least 32 graduates entered other religious communities and many became priests. In 1939 the CSJs were invited to staff St. Emydius School, and in 1948 they opened St. Thomas the Apostle School in the outer Richmond. They also served in what would become the dioceses of Oakland and San Jose.

The original vision of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in France, both before and after the French Revolution, holds true today. The sisters are called to “divide the city,” and after studying the situation in each part, determine the needs of that time. Keeping to that vision, the Sisters of St. Joseph responded to needs of the immigrant church in establishing and staffing Catholic schools, and serving the sick poor in Catholic hospitals. With an educated and formed laity ready to take on the positions of responsibility in these institutions, many sisters moved into other ministries after Vatican II. The CSJs also welcomed in 1979 lay partners as associates in prayer and ministry.

Where are the CSJs in the San Francisco archdiocese today? First, seven of the nine are graduates of Star of the Sea Academy, having grown up in the Richmond. Their current ministries include parish associate at St. Thomas and St. Monica; counselor at Archbishop Riordan High School, teacher aide; chaplain at San Francisco General Hospital; advocate/chaplain for St. Vincent de Paul Society; educator and lecturer on ecological, spiritual and social issues; home visitor; and caretaker for elderly parents and family members. The Sisters of St. Joseph continue to divide the city and care for the dear neighbor.


Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

Name of congregation: Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

Founding: 650 in LePuy, France

First U.S. foundation: St. Louis, 1836

First ministry in Archdiocese of San Francisco: Opened Star of the Sea School, 1909

Original ministry: Education

Current ministries: Education, parish, chaplaincy, advocacy

Number of sisters in CSJ Western Province: 309, with 160 associates

Number ministering in archdiocese: 9

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