The Sisters of St. Joseph began with six women meeting in small kitchen in LePuy, France in 1650. These six women had a common desire to grow in their love of God and serve the unmet needs of the people around them, whom they came to call their “dear neighbors.” These women, with the spiritual direction of a Jesuit priest, Jean Pierre Medaille, formed the first community of Sisters of St. Joseph. These sisters lived simply and among the people, rather than behind cloistered walls as was the norm for women religious of the time.
Over the next century, the Congregation experienced rapid growth in France, until it disbanded during the civil and religious unrest of the French Revolution. Unwilling to renounce their religious freedom, many of the sisters, led by Jeanne Fontbonne (Mother St. John Fontbonne), were imprisoned or forced into hiding where they lived as dedicated lay women. In 1807, the Cardinal of Lyons asked the remaining sisters to establish a foundation in his city.
Coming to the United States
Under the direction of Mother St. John, seven sisters journeyed from France to America in 1836 to work with deaf children in St. Louis at the invitation of the Bishop of that city. From there, new communities of Sisters of St. Joseph were formed throughout the United States and Canada, including the seven founding communities which make up our Congregation of St. Joseph. They are Cleveland, Ohio, Wichita, Kansas, LaGrange Park, Illinois, Wheeling, West Virginia, Nazareth, in Kalamazoo Michigan, Tipton, Indiana, and Medaille which includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Crookston and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.
As Sisters of St. Joseph in the 21st century, we continue to respond to the unmet and critical needs of our contemporary society and world. Our mission and vision, informed by a deep and pervasive love of God and neighbor without distinction, move us always toward ways to respond, in a spirit of unifying, reconciling love, to the needs of our local communities, the call of the Church, the people of God, and the challenges of the global community within which we live. Today, our areas of presence include: