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A Reflection on the Sisters of St. Joseph

fc feast of st joseph main

The Feast of St. Joseph is an annual event celebrated by St. Joseph’s College on March 19. St. Joseph is the patron saint of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, who founded the College in 1916. This event is held to show appreciation and thank the sisters for their many years of hard work and dedicated service.

Director of Campus Ministry Patrick Tracy organized the event, while the College’s chaplain, the Rev. Frank Pizzarelli, celebrated the liturgy. JoAnn Vitiello, a senior adjunct faculty member in the child study department, presented a heartwarming reflection about who the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood are. Her association with the order goes back to when the sisters were her teachers at St. Brendan’s Diocesan High School for Girls in Brooklyn.

Following the reflection and a renewal of vows by the sisters, the Student Government Association presented a bouquet of flowers as a thank you on behalf of the entire student body.

“A lovely spirit permeated the event as is such the spirit of St. Joseph’s College,” Vitiello said.

After the liturgy, an array of desserts were presented, including St. Joseph’s bread and pastries blessed by Father Frank, a tradition of the day.


By JoAnn Vitiello

Recently, I had a conversation with a teacher with whom I work in the Freeport Public School District. We were talking about children, schools, how children learn, how schools have changed, our own personal choices, and she told me a story of herself that took place when she was in the 10th grade in high school.

She told me that she clearly remembered the day that she was watching a news channel hosted by Geraldo Rivera.

Geraldo Rivera was reporting a news clip on public television about the existing conditions of a state-run institution where persons with disabilities were living at that time. Geraldo Rivera was also promoting an event in Central Park called “One on One,” wherein high school students were invited to participate and become a buddy to a person with a disability.

This teacher told me that she and few friends decided to go to this event. She remembers taking the train into the city, getting her nametag and being matched with a tall, thin young man. Her responsibility was to share the day with this young man by participating in the activities scheduled throughout the day.

This teacher told me that the defining moment of her life was on that day when she realized that helping people with disabilities would be her life’s goal.

And today, she is a special education teacher and very devoted to her call and as she spoke of it, her vocation. She believes that it was God, working through persons and events on that particular day, who had called her to this work.

I propose that this teacher experienced three elements that lead to her vocation:

  • A knowing in her mind
  • A yearning in her heart
  • A willingness in her spirit

Today we come together to celebrate the lives of women who have also experienced being called to a privileged vocation. These woman whom we celebrate today, are all members of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood.

Each of these women has a story similar to the one that I have shared with you. Each of these women would most likely and willingly share their story with you, if you asked them to do so, and I suspect that each of these woman have had a defining moment in their lives that has called them to a vocation dedicated to the love of God and neighbor without distinction.

So who are the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood?

Back in a small town in LePuy, France, in the mid-17th century, women gathered together to share a common vision. Their primary focus was a deep love for God and neighbor. As they organized and was accepted as an institution of the church, many other women joined them and together they evidenced their deep concern that God be honored and glorified in all that they did.

As they were then and as they are now, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood are a group of women responding in faith and freely choosing to live out their baptismal commitment, through a vowed life, lived in community and giving public witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, today in the 21st century, the Sisters of St. Joseph are extraordinary women, ministering to God’s people in extraordinary ways.

Although their congregation has gone through change that resulted in turbulence as well as excitement, fear as well as hope, deeper questions as well as answers, today they remain a group of women who gather together to share a common vision by living lives that are simple, prayerful, courageous and compassionate, by proclaiming with prophetic voice the gospel of Jesus Christ, which remains their center and vitality, and by demonstrating their belief in the dignity of the human person and the call to secure that dignity.

Yes, today in the 21st century, the Sisters of St. Joseph are extraordinary women, ministering to God’s people in extraordinary ways.

We know the Sisters of St. Joseph here at the College as individuals, as colleagues and as friends who engage in the day-to-day operation of this great institution with a sense of dedicated service, laughter and love. They provide us with a model of humility, in imitation of their patron, St. Joseph, whose feast we celebrate today and whose name they bear.

Entwined within the mystery of this privileged call to religious life is their humanity, which allows the Sisters of St. Joseph to connect with people on a daily basis.

In addition to providing education on all levels, health care services, social ministry and other highly esteemed professions, the Sisters of St. Joseph also enjoy a good joke, can tell a good joke, dance a good dance, discuss a great book, author a great book, walk five miles, run five miles, fix a car, fix a drink, plan a party, plan a graduation, attend a play, direct a play, sing a song, write a song, cook a meal, serve a meal, sketch a picture, paint a picture, take a trip, plan a trip, teach a poem, write a poem, write a grant, win a grant, know the law, interpret the law, embrace a child, adopt a child, embrace the elderly, care for the elderly, comfort the dying, comfort the sick, comfort those in prison, plant a seed, grow a seed, love the earth, care for the earth, say a prayer, lead a prayer, pray for peace.

Their ministry can be defined from a quote from their primitive constitution, which states: “Nothingof which women were capable was outside their ministry.”

So as they were then and as they are now, we can see in the history of their extraordinary work, that today, “Nothing of which women are capableis outside their ministry.”

Yes, today in the 21st century, the Sisters of St. Joseph are extraordinary women, ministering to God’s people in extraordinary ways.

It is my great honor to be able to say“thank you,” not only on behalf of myself personally, but on behalf of all of us, your colleagues who know and love you and thank you for the inspiration that we have received from the example of your extraordinary lives.

If my former boss, Monsignor Michael J. Cantley, were here today, he would say the Sisters of St. Joseph are “women extraordinaire.” If my cousin, Monsignor David L. Cassato, were here, he would be a “tad-bit” jealous that I am giving this reflection and not he.

And to my colleague Barbara Traola, I want you to know that on September 1, 1856, the Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Brooklyn at the request of Bishop John Loughlin and began their unique journey of faith long before you met them in Brooklyn in 1955.

Last year, Barbara Traola told us stories about her association with the Sisters of St. Joseph that warmed our hearts and made us smile. Her stories were one of many that could be told here today.

Let us today share our own stories with one another, stories of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things and reflect upon all of the defining moments in our personal lives when we knew in our own minds and yearned in our own hearts and responded freely in faith to our own call, and in solidarity with the Sisters of St. Joseph pray that all that we are and all that we do, will be dedicated to the great love of God and neighbor without distinction.

Thank you.



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