Sister Shirley Tousignant, CSJ
(Sister Elizabeth Marie)
Sister Shirley Tousignant was raised in Lincoln Park, Michigan, one of four children born to Leona and Harry Tousignant. She attended St. Henry’s School where the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth, Michigan were her first teachers. As a teenager, the Tousignants moved to Oklee, Minnesota, a small town about 50 miles from Crookston, Minnesota, where she met the Sisters of St. Joseph of Bourg; she decided to enter the community at the age of 16. After professing vows, she moved to St. Paul, Minnesota to enroll in St. Catherine’s College, where she earned a BA in elementary education.
For twenty-five years, Sister Shirley instructed students at all elementary levels, from kindergarten to eighth grade, although she especially loved working with sixth graders. She was an innovator in the classroom, often writing special programs and revamping religious instruction to engage and enrich her students. This experience served her well; she was invited to be the city-wide coordinator of religious education in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which allowed her to work with youth in the city’s three parishes.
Sister Shirley stepped into a new role as the pastoral associate at St. Michael’s Church in Grand Forks. She walked with parishioners as they experienced all kinds of challenges, including poverty, addiction, and caring for aged family members. She remembers this time as an education in living the human condition and was blessed by both the challenges and rewards of this ministry.
When her mother passed away suddenly, Sister Shirley relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida, to care for her father. During this time, she worked once again in pastoral ministry and in teaching, until she returned to the north for retirement. She rediscovered her love of creating handmade pottery at “Pottery House,” a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Returning to Minnesota brought her nearly full circle. She visited a place where many of her former students lived to find a beautiful flower garden planted years before. The circle was completed when the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille, Sister Shirley’s founding community, joined with others in 2007 to create the current Congregation of St. Joseph. This included the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth, whom Sister Shirley first met in grade school. Today, Sister Shirley lives at Nazareth Center in Kalamazoo and is grateful for all the blessings of the last 75 years.
Sister Theresa Howard, CSJ
(Sister Mary Peter)
Sister Theresa Howard was born in Port Huron, Michigan, one of six children of Eleanore and Peter Howard. She attended St. Christopher grade school where her call to religious life was inspired by the life and love of the sisters who were her teachers. After graduating from St. Stephen High School, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth on September 8, 1963, where she received the name Sister Mary Peter (she later returned to her baptismal name). Her education continued at Nazareth College, where she received her B.A. degree in Sociology in 1968. She later earned a Master’s degree in special education from Wayne State University.
Sister Theresa’s heart belonged in the ministry of teaching, and she had the joy of teaching elementary school for 49 years. Her career brought her to classrooms throughout the Diocese of Detroit, including at St. Francis Home for Boys, St. David’s, St. Veronica’s, and St. Mary’s. Her greatest joy as a teacher was nurturing her students’ love for learning and encouraging them to lead lives full of faith. She now resides at Nazareth Center where she also does volunteer work. She most enjoys experiencing the wisdom, peace, love, and grace of her Sisters.
Sister Theresa is grateful for her 60 years in religious life. She says, “I have been blessed to have the support of my CSJ Community, family, and friends. It has truly been a journey of love.”
Sister Mary Ann McCarron, CSJ
(Sister Mary Vera)
Sister Mary Ann McCarron was born in Flint, Michigan, on November 29, 1945, to Blanche and Bill McCarron. She and her brother Pat grew up on a farm in Flushing, Michigan. She attended St. Robert School and later at Sr. John Vianney High School in Flint, where religious vocations were encouraged by her teachers. Strongly encouraged by the example of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth, she decided to enter the community in 1963.
Upon graduating from Nazareth College with a BA in history, Sister Mary Ann served as a teacher in a number of schools, including Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Monica, and St. Augustine. After earning her Master’s degree in educational administration from Marygrove College in Detroit, she became principal of St. Augustine School, a position she also held at St. Andrew School and St. John School. In 1989, Sister Mary Ann was elected to congregational leadership, a position she held until 1995. After a return to school administration, she transitioned to parish ministry. Since 2001, Sister Mary Ann has been a pastoral associate; first at St. Mary and St. Pius X parishes in Flint, and now at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Fenton, Michigan.
Of her experience of religious life, Sister Mary Ann credits the women of her religious community as a source of strength and joy. “When I was young, I wanted to serve others, but I knew I would not persevere unless I was with others who shared these aims,” she said. “I have had many experiences as I have traveled through life, but I have never felt alone. The respect and love I receive as a Sister of St. Joseph is very humbling. It reminds me that I am standing on the shoulders of ‘giants’ whose courage, steadfast faith, and kindness are appreciated by many.”
Sister Beth Pero, CSJ
(Sister Mary Bethany)
Growing up as a dear neighbor of the Sisters of St. Joseph, I was exposed to their charism daily living amidst St. Henry’s parish. It was there that I received all my sacraments of initiation and a good elementary education. I am the youngest of ten children born to Charlie and Grace Pero. However, even more than the love and example of family and the good Sisters, an elderly gentleman, who faithfully attended daily Mass and stayed afterward for prayerful contemplation, was the person who deeply touched my curious young heart and sparked my vocation. “God is such good company”, Mr. Foody would say. “He’s my best friend.” I wanted God to be my best friend too.
The seeds planted in my early years sprouted into a persistent call to become a religious Sister. Right after graduating from public High School, I joined the Sisters of St. Joseph at Nazareth. I sailed through the early years of formation, but met challenges when so many Sisters were leaving religious life just as I was ready to make a life commitment. Many changes were occurring, yet, with God’s grace and the support of community, my desire held steady. 60 years later, here I humbly am.
I taught young children for 20 years and administered an early childhood center for a while also. After caring for my mother, who experienced growing dementia in the last years of her life, I was led to pastoral care of the sick. I then ministered for another 20 years as a hospital chaplain and hospice worker. Over the years, I experienced so many wonderful opportunities for spiritual growth and enrichment. I felt the joys of being well-used in ministry. Many beautiful relationships were formed both in community and with co-workers. Privileges were extended to me in many positions that would not have happened in another lifestyle. My life these 60 years has been abundantly blessed as a member of this Congregation of the great love of God. Gratitude fills my heart.
“Be still and know that I am God.” This scripture passage has been central in recent years. Ministry has become less doing and more interceding for all of creation. Many close friends and family members have passed into eternity. Like Mr. Foody in his contemplative adoration in our parish church, I go deeper into the vast mystery of God. Sacred sitting in silent prayer, has become the main focus of my time and energy. God is such a wonder!
Sister Rita Ann Teichman, CSJ
(Sister Mary Gerard)
Sister Rita Ann Teichman entered the founding community of Nazareth in 1963. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history and education in 1969, and a master’s degree in religious studies in 1976 from Mundelein Ill. In 1981, she earned a master’s degree in religious studies/sacraments, and in 1989 she received an advanced degree in spiritual direction.
Sister Rita Ann began teaching in the Diocese of Kalamazoo in 1968 at St. Augustine parish school. She also taught in the Archdiocese of Detroit at St. Benedict and St. Fabian, and in the Archdiocese of Chicago at St. Gertrude and Queen of Angels. Sister Rita Ann then transitioned to parish ministry serving as Director of Religious Formation at St. Thomas More in Troy Michigan, and at St. John the Evangelist in Fenton, Michigan. In 1989, Sister Rita Ann became Vocation Director for the Congregation of St. Joseph in Nazareth, and in 1991 became the Director of Formation and Novice Director. During her years as Formation Director, she earned a degree in spiritual direction from the Dominican Sisters in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was a night supervisor for the YWCA Domestic Assault Program in Kalamazoo, Michigan. From 1989 until 1995, she also volunteered for the Kalamazoo AIDS Research/Education System.
From 1995-2007, Sister Rita Ann served as a member of the Leadership Team in Nazareth helping to navigate the process of joining with six other communities of Sisters of St. Joseph to form one community, the current Congregation of St. Joseph. After serving in leadership, she was appointed Vice President of Mission Integration at St. Joseph Health System in Tawas City, Michigan. As a member of the Steering Team, Sister Rita Ann helped bring together the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth and the Daughters of Charity to form Ascension in 1999. She served on Ascension Sponsors Council from 2001-2008 and in 2012, was appointed to Ascension Health Ministries. That same year Sister Rita Ann moved back to Kalamazoo to serve as Steward of Care and Support Mission at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Portage, Michigan.
In 2013, Sister Rita Ann was elected to the Congregational Leadership Team for which she served a five-year term. She is currently a CSJ liaison to sisters at Ascension Living Borgess Please and IHM Senior Living Community. She serves on the board of Catholic Mobilizing Network, a member of the CSJ Mission Network, and volunteers and coordinates the YWCA Dreamery at Edison Volunteers Empowerment meetings.
Sister Christine Parks, CSJ
It was clear from the beginning of my journey to respond to God’s (at the time inexplicable) call to become a Sister of St. Joseph that, while I had no idea what their mission or charism were, relationship was at the heart of their call to “Unioning Love”. From my first visit at Nazareth I felt a sense of being at home, which continued as I entered in 1973; and has only deepened across the years, and through the experiences I’ve been blessed with, as I’ve sought to grow into our CSSJ Consensus Statement: Stimulated by the Holy Spirit…we move always towards profound love of God and love of Neighbor without distinction, from whom we do not separate ourselves…
My ministry journey is best described as more of a meander than anything resembling a career path. This meander included teaching high school and junior high; working at Nazareth College in admissions and financial aid; creating and managing the Educational Services Dept. at Borgess Medical Center; helping establish and manage a homeless shelter for Kalamazoo County; a year’s “time-out” for spiritual and personal renewal; and Program and Spiritual Director for a Benedictine spirituality center in Beech Grove, IN.
There was always a knowing when to move on, and a sense that it was possible to bring the gifts and experiences gathered along the way to each new ministry opportunity. 1995 brought one of the greatest, most graced challenges—election to the Nazareth Leadership Team. Twelve years later, not only had we moved into the 21st century, we had also become founding members of the new Congregation of St. Joseph. Then after several years working for our Transformations Spirituality Center, I found myself elected to the leadership team of Congregation of St. Joseph, from which I was sustained always through rich relationships (including with our Sisters in Japan), community, deep prayer, and the ever-present grace of the Spirit.
And now, while a Sister of St. Joseph may “retire” from formal ministry, she never retires from the mission of Unioning Love, life continues to be rich, full (sometimes to overflowing) and challenging with seldom a dull moment. The fullness includes commitment to Earth through our CSJ Laudato Si’/Integral Ecology & sustainability efforts among other congregational activities; offering Spiritual Direction; a couple of wonder-full writing groups; getting out for nature walks and gardening whenever possible, etc.
Each day I continue to be nourished and sustained by community, friendships, prayer, and a mutual love relationship with the Holy One, striving to live out of the words of Micah 6:8—This is what the Holy One asks, only this, that we act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly with God; and into the prayer of our Jesuit co-founder Jean Pierre Medaille—I love LOVE, and let LOVE love through me.