The California Foundation
- 1912 -
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange is among the youngest of the American congregations and traces its roots through the St. Joseph congregations of La Grange, Illinois; Concordia, Kansas; Rochester, New York; and Carondelet, Missouri.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange were established in 1912 by Mother Bernard Gosselin. She and eight sisters left LaGrange, Illinois, near Chicago to establish a school in Eureka, California. When the Sisters first arrived, they had only 60 cents and only a promise of a temporary house, but even with such limited resources they were able to open a school within a few months of arrival. The Sisters were able to sustain themselves with the meager income the school provided by growing most of their own food, and by the generosity of the people of Eureka.
As the Congregation grew, the Sisters were better able to address more of the needs of the area. The 1918 flu epidemic presented a new challenge to the community. Although none of the members was trained in medicine, the Sisters knew that the people of the area needed practical nursing care as well as consolation and reconciliation in the presence of death. The Sisters responded as best they could at the time, but they realized that by establishing a hospital they could provide a health care service which would effectively address the personal, social and spiritual needs of the area. In 1920, the Sisters opened St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka.
By 1922, the Sisters were teaching in several Southern California areas and recognized that the community could better develop its ministries by moving the Motherhouse to Orange. The Congregation continued in the same spirit of charity, simplicity, and humility characteristic of the Sisters of St. Joseph throughout the world. Mother Bernard further encouraged the Sisters to respond to the needs of their neighbors with faith, foresight and flexibility.
The first ministries of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange were in education and health care. They experienced decades of effective service within a system characterized by centralized authority, limited personal choice of ministry, and structured ministerial activity. Schools and hospitals were staffed primarily by the Sisters and in the 1940s and 1950s the number of institutions directed by the Congregation increased steadily. In the 1940s the Sisters extended their work in health, education and religious instruction to the people of Papua New Guinea and Australia.
The 1960s radically challenged the environment. Rapid changes in every aspect of life brought disruption to the traditions of religious life as well as to those of the broader society. At the beginning of the 1960s Vatican II challenged religious congregations to renew and adapt their mission and way of life in order to respond to the changing needs of society and the Church. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange clarified their mission, broadened the scope of their ministries, and changed outdated structures and customs.
Today, the Congregation’s commitment to education is expressed in a variety of forms including elementary, secondary, university and other adult education. The commitment to extend the healing mission of Christ is expressed through acute care hospitals, rehabilitation programs, home health care, community education, primary care clinics, and wellness programs. The works of the Congregation have expanded, however, beyond education and health care to also include such things as helping new immigrants, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, and fostering spiritual development.
The Sisters are very aware that their ministry is greatly enhanced through fuller collaboration with their lay coworkers. They have developed clearer roles for the laity involved in their ministries and have asked them to be partners and leaders with them in their institutions.