Our Youth

Around the School Bell: Fostering Leaders, Impacting Change with the Sisters of St. Joseph

By Saramarie Wade

“You are here to change the world” – Sister Patricia Mahoney, C.S.J

These were the inspiring words echoing through our minds as we intently listened to our keynote speaker, Sister Patricia Mahoney, C.S.J. For three days in July, girls from each Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ) high school in the diocese attended the “CSJ It Forward” retreat at the St. Joseph’s Villa in Hampton Bays, N.Y.

This was a leadership workshop and retreat, led by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, that taught us how to bring forward elements of change in our communities, school and on a global scale. On behalf of all the girls who attended, I can honestly say that this leadership workshop was truly an unforgettable experience. It taught me how to carry out the CSJ mission of unity, reconciliation and all-inclusive love in everything that I do. As a group, we were met with thought-provoking questions as to what mark we wanted to put in the world and how we, as CSJ leaders, were going to create change, sparking solidarity among our peers and our community.

During the first day of the leadership workshop, a key theme that was promoted throughout the whole day was that of female empowerment and how we as women should always strive to come together for the greater good. We had such great and insightful conversations such as how to promote change, how we should uphold the rights and freedoms that we have and how to use them as a platform to advocate for those who do not have the freedoms to do so. Although women here in the U.S. have full rights and freedoms, it is unfortunate to know that there are many women outside of our own country who do not even have half of the rights that we are privileged to have.

Sitting down and having this very important discussion with young women from each CSJ school really inspired me to continue to use my voice and the rights that I have in order to support, commit and strive to promote opportunities for women, making their own voices eventually heard for all to hear.

Whether it was the inspiring talks or nature walks, students from the dioceses’s high schools that are under the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ) network enjoyed the summer sunshine and fellowship together. (Photos courtesy of Saramarie Wade)

Wade, right, and Sister Patricia Lucas, C.S.J.

All smiles and selfies during the three-day retreat in the Hampton Bays.

We are all God’s children. To serve and be used by Him is not only a gift, but a privilege. By being God’s children, it is not only a service, but a duty to be a leader, even if you are the only one standing. That was a very important lesson learned at this retreat. Service and being in communion with others are principles that represent the Sisters of St. Joseph and what they stand for.

Another principle that was continually stressed during this retreat was the value of creation and how we should deepen our awareness concerning the needs of our environment. Guest speaker, Sister Karen Burke, who is the Coordinator of Land Initiatives, presented a wonderful and eye-opening presentation in which she explained in detail the CSJ Land Ethic. She shared how it is our responsibility and duty to not only understand the needs of our environment, but to also take action on the concerns of the world today. We were all able to converse with one another, discussing the world’s concerns, as well as what gives us hope.

Afterwards, we all went on a nature walk on the St. Joseph’s Villa grounds in which we were all able to fully appreciate the beauty of God’s creation. Some walked along the bay, some sat among the trees and others sat on the deck, just looking at the sky. It was such a great experience to just take the time out to appreciate what God has freely given us. Sometimes it is so easy to get distracted by what needs to be planned in the future, work that needs to be completed, or a deadline that has to be met. Taking just a few minutes to marvel at the world around us, whether it be on our way to school or work, could give us a calm and serene peace of mind. This is always a good thing, especially in the summertime.

The group as a whole, felt such an urge to go out and start creating change. The presentation, the nature walk, and our group discussions all aided in our inspiration to take on more environmental causes. We can somehow bring more awareness to our own schools whether it be stressing the need for recycling or doing some planting on our school grounds. As CSJ school communities, it would be a great idea to come together and create more fundraisers, more drives and more foundations for change.

On behalf of all of the girls who attended, I can sincerely say that this “CSJ It Forward” retreat was definitely one of the highlights of my summer and I will never forget the relationships I made there with all of the girls, as well as the Sisters.

Thank you to the Sisters who cooked the delicious food, as well as Sisters Patricia Mahoney and Karen Burke for inspiring us with your stories and presentations. I also would like to give a huge thank you to Sister Patricia Lucas for making this retreat possible, whether it was coordinating the events, leading us to the next activity, being a listening ear, or giving the warmest hugs.

Thank you to the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph for all that you do. Your tireless work, keeping Christ at the center of it all is an inspiration and your legacy will never be forgotten. We will continue to make you all proud, being the creators of change and leaders of a better tomorrow!

Saramarie Wade is a rising senior at The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates, and attends Our Lady of Light parish, St. Albans.