A small seed grew into a big tree!
For the past four centuries, the Sisters of Saint Joseph have been active in education, mental health care, care for the elderly and pastoral activities. Inspired by the daring and zeal of their founder Jean-Pierre Médaille, they dared to cross borders and even oceans.
Each time, the sisters of Saint Joseph left as a small group that grew into a large community. Always acting from the mission of their French founder: unity among themselves and with everyone they met. Seeds were also planted in Munsterbilzen from 1895 onwards. There, the sisters left their mark on the care of the sick, on education and on the parish.
What began with their founder is reviving today: laymen and religious citizens – they were given the name ‘De Tochtgenoten’ (or translated: Journey Companions) – work together intensely and continue to express the values and spirituality of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Past, present and future come together beautifully in this experience exhibition.
Understood by Christ, the Sisters gain courage and zeal to persevere and meet men and women of their time.
Their life from the Gospel is rooted in the experience they have, because God calls them.
In their apostolic service, they seek to put into practice the question of their founder:
“to work on the unity between people and with God”.
“to share the life they received from Him with others”
All the more, Father Médaille invites the Sisters of Saint Joseph to live a life among themselves and with “their dear fellow men”.
- Warm love
Following the example of St Joseph, whose name they carry.
Born out of the desire of God, born out of the desire of seven pious people, the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph was founded in 1650 in Clermont-Ferrand. From various action domains that responded to local needs, the Sisters became pioneers of sound mental health care and education. Over the course of four centuries, the Congregation spread throughout the world, with more than 40,000 members today.
Connected to God through His Word that makes them live in simplicity and cordiality, the Sisters are at the service of every human being. This bond is at the heart of their spirituality and commitment.
Today the Sisters of Saint Joseph are still driven by the Spirit and continue to work for the future. They are therefore on their way together with ‘De Tochtgenoten’ (or Journey Companions), who, inspired by the same spirituality, are subservient in life.
The Sisters have always been aware of their common heritage and continue on their path to unity. This awareness has taken them into a dynamic of ever more intense life over the past centuries. After a year of reflection, prayer and questioning of all the Sisters, the General Chapter of Clermont-Ferrand opted for a union, for one Congregation.
The decree for this unification was approved by Rome on Christmas Day in 1993: The Institute of the Sisters of Saint Joseph was born. In 1997 the Congregation of Saint Joseph of Rodez joined. They now form one large family, with Sisters serving in Belgium, France, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.
The various congregations have grouped themselves into five federations all over the world. The Institute of the Sisters of Saint Joseph belongs to the French federation.
(or Journey Companions)
The special spirituality and commitment of the Sisters also inspires non-religious people. They are fascinated by the life the Sisters lead in function of God and fellow citizens. Since 1999, they have formed a close-knit group that meets regularly to reflect on contemporary themes from a spiritual point of view. This group – called ‘De Tochgenoten’ – consists of both laymen and Sisters.
At each meeting, in addition to the Word of God and specific themes related to the guidelines and the evangelical mission, their own acquaintances and experiences are also discussed. Reflection and prayer occupy a central place.
A several times already ‘De Tochtgenoten’ were allowed to participate in the Assemblée Internationale in France. The Belgian participation was always warmly welcomed. On 9 March 2018 they received their own assignment from the central government in France. Sister Marithé Astic gave them a challenge for the future: to support laymen and religious people in continuously giving meaning to current spirituality in a contemporary way.
THE SISTERS TODAY
Today the sisters still live among the people. In this way they can meet them in their daily lives and share their joy and their pain. In the communities of Munsterbilzen (Berkenzicht), Bilzen (Eik) and Hasselt, as well as in the residential care centre Sint-Joseph, the Sisters are sent to be an open house for young people, adults and the elderly with their presence. Their core mission remains to take care of vulnerable persons, persons in need.
Carried by a life of communion with the Lord in prayer, they are grateful to be able to be apostolically active today. Their partnership with ‘De Tochtgenoten’ has also fostered a great openness towards the world, while at the same time making them let go of things. Over the next few decades, laymen and sisters will be on the road together in the spirit of Father Médaille.