The questions of the Paschal Meal enlighten my own. Perhaps the earliest was Mother de la Salle’s asking me, a Catholic Charities social worker at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: “Miss Richardson, why don’t you join the Sisters in their work here? Give me 10 reasons.” Not one occurred to me and so I entered.
At St. Luke’s High School, my first assignment, a student, Maureen D’Auria, asked if she could enter our convent: an historic question with an Irish answer: why not? Then Mother Patricia, Superior General, asked me to continue my French studies at Georgetown University. Who could refuse? A new question from Sr. Madeline, President of Englewood Cliffs College where she was assembling a faculty: would I join them? Good, I thought, unaware that a Caldwell College request for a CSJP to teach there would also be on the schedule. Then arose Sr. Jeanne Celeste’s query about new forms of community living. Mary Byrnes, Rosalie McQuaide, Joan Steans and I agreed to try at 78 Grand Street, our founder’s first residence in the U.S.A. The neighbors had lots of questions for us, and perhaps the Center for Human Development, a neighborhood development project we initiated, was an answer.
Global neighbors from Zaire, Vietnam, Romania, Ethiopia, et al., asked “where can we stay?” and the ground floor was reconfigured into a temporary shelter for refugees, the Peace Apartment. A Caldwell College colleague, Sr. Maura Campbell, asked me to accompany her on a Zen retreat. For me this changed Zen from a clue in puzzles to Zen, a catalyst for a new awareness of my Catholic faith; and then Roshi Glassman’s suggestion that my initial teacher be Robert Kennedy, SJ at St. Peter’s College, Jersey City! Another shocking question was Sr. Patricia Lynch’s request to get a job at the United Nations! God opened doors. My eleven-year ministry at the Holy See Mission to the United Nations and then at the International Catholic Organizations Information Center at the UN changed when Rosalie McQuaide, CSJP, archivist at Catholic Relief Services, told me they needed a Church Affairs assistant director in their new headquarters; would I join her to begin a CSJP community in Baltimore? Again, who could refuse? Since then, multiple questions and responses, and now, my own: what’s next?
Sister Janet wrote this post on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 2015 when she celebrated 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace!
"So Christ is our model and in order to imitate Him we have to do strange things – things that seem almost inexplicable, but at the last days, when our work is taken off the loom of life, we shall see the beauty that comes into our soul by this work."
Mother Evangelista (Honoria Gaffney)