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Erin McDonald Becomes Congregation's Newest Candidate for Vowed Membership

The Congregation of St. Joseph is pleased to announce that Erin McDonald has been accepted as a candidate for vowed membership. Erin’s reception as a candidate took place during Evening Prayer on Saturday, November 10, 2012, in the Chapel at Mount St. Joseph in Wheeling, West Virginia.  The ceremony was attended by members of the Congregation’s Leadership Team, sisters, and friends.  The celebration continued with supper in the dining room.

“‘A Sister of St. Joseph moves always toward profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction, from whom she does not separate herself.'  This quote, from the mission of the Congregation of St. Joseph, encompasses the ways in which my experiences of faith, service, and solidarity with the poor have changed and transformed me. It is how I see and experience the world around me. I have been so profoundly changed by these experiences that I am choosing to live a life completely rooted in love of God and love of neighbor as a Sister of St Joseph,” explains Erin.

Originally from Massachusetts, Erin had an early connection with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston.  “When I was a child, my grandmother took me to work with her at St. Raphael’s Convent in Boston.  She sat me in the kitchen with her while she cooked for the sisters.  Those sisters influenced my earliest memories,” she recalls fondly.

During the summer of 2000, Erin came to Wheeling and connected with the Sisters of St. Joseph when she participated in the Volunteers in Mission Program. She later moved to Wheeling to complete her Bachelors in Psychology Degree at Wheeling Jesuit University and then received her Masters of Social Work degree from West Virginia University.
Erin with her Formation Director, Sister Rose Ann Hefner, CSJ, during the ceremony.

Erin has had a number of work experiences including being a Residential Counselor at Girls Hope in Baden, Pennsylvania; working as Assistant Director and then Director of the Service for Social Action Center at Wheeling Jesuit University. She recently returned to Wheeling after two years of ministry in Rwanda with Jesuit Refugee Services and is currently working for Catholic Charities West Virginia in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. “After serving two years as a humanitarian aid worker with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Rwanda, I have seen and experienced, first hand, the brokenness in our world that is crying out for unity and reconciliation. As a Sister of St Joseph, I am called to be a catalyst for positive change and healing in our wounded and fractured world,” continues Erin. 

A woman who desires to become a Sister of St. Joseph begins her religious life with a period of initial formation, which includes the Candidate Stage, the Novitiate, and Initial Profession. The intention of this period of formation is to nurture human development, a spirit of prayer, understanding and practice of the vowed life, growth in the spirit and spirituality of the Congregation, and readiness for participation in the Congregation’s life and works.

The Candidacy Stage is a period of time, ordinarily one-to-three years, when the candidate begins to share in the life and mission of the Congregation of St. Joseph. This time provides a unique opportunity for the Congregation to get to know the woman and for the woman to get to know the Congregation.

The Novitiate Stage is a two-year period of time in which the novice continues to discern her call as she experiences religious life as a Sister of St. Joseph. These years are “Sabbath time” to deepen her relationship with God, to intensify the living out of the mission to foster human growth. The novitiate experience includes a concentrated program of prayer, study, reflection, and limited ministerial engagement.

Initial Profession is a time for the woman to live the vowed life as a Sister of St. Joseph. For a period of three-to-six years, after the initial stages, a sister lives in community with initial vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and shares in full-time ministry. This is a time in which she integrates the mission, charism, spirit and spirituality of the Congregation of St. Joseph, as well as Gospel values, into her life and ministry. As she moves toward permanent profession, she continues to discern and prepare for a lifelong commitment as a Sister of St. Joseph.

Once a woman has completed the initial formation process, she continues her journey by making Perpetual Vows where she commits to live the lifelong vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. A Sister of St. Joseph dedicates herself to God, to unifying love in community, and to serve a world in need.

Erin is prepared to begin her journey.  She concludes, “I pray for the courage to follow God's call wherever it leads me and to embrace, with an open heart and mind, whatever the future of religious life may hold.”