Uncommon Trust in God: The Recent History of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Springfield
by Kathleen C. Keating, SSJ
Sisters of St. Joseph, Holyoke, MA 2009
"Uncommon Trust in God" was written to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, Massachusetts. Almost every Catholic life (and many non-Catholic lives) in this part of the world has been touched by a Sister of St. Joseph. Best known for their work in education, in recent years they have expanded their outreach and become fully dedicated to social justice issues wherever they may find them. Sr. Kathleen Keating, Ph.D. reflects on the past twenty-five years of the SSJ's history in this book.
The study is interesting in many ways. For those from the Springfield, MA area, this book is a trip down memory lane. Readers will recognize many of the names of the sisters profiled in these pages. They will smile at reflections on the SSJ Craft Fair which for twenty years was a mainstay of the Columbus Day weekend. They will remember schools and principals and new buildings. They will acknowledge programs and places that continue to make the world a better place. They may recall how a special sister or two touched their lives forever. Those who attended Elms College will find the appendix on that institution particularly fascinating. Sr. Kathleen Keating is a former president of the school and offers a tremendous amount of insight on its recent history.
From a broader perspective, it is a look at a congregation of religious sisters and how they adapted in the years after Vatican II. Sr. Kathleen examines how their lives changed in terms of how they lived and worked and governed themselves and carried out their mission. There were definitely growing pains, but Sr. Kathleen and most of the other sisters agree that the changes were for the best. They have learned to cope with an aging population and declining membership. They have found ways to continue to be relevant to the world. They have found ways to raise money and utilize their properties in order to care for their own. Through it all, they have retained their "Uncommon Trust in God."
Perhaps the greatest tribute to the Sisters of Saint Joseph is in the words of Bishop Timothy Harrington who spoke at the Sisters' 100th Anniversary Celebration:
"Each Sister of St. Joseph is a teacher. They teach by example, by that mysterious power that goes out from them like a light from a lamp, heat from a fire, and perfume from a flower. They teach by their presence in classrooms, in soup kitchens, in shelters for abused women, in their tireless advocacy for the poor, for human rights all over the world and here at home on behalf of America's new migrants and immigrants . . .They teach us when they ask, 'What are you as a Christian doing . . . ?'"
"Uncommon Trust in God" is a wonderful book for anyone interested in the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield or those who wish to learn more about religious sisters over the past twenty-five years.
To purchase a copy, please send $24 ($20 plus $4 shipping) to:
Sr. Kathleen Keating
34 Lower Westfield Road
Holyoke, MA 01040
Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur