SPRINGFIELD – The many contributions of the Sisters of Saint Joseph were recognized by the Diocese of Springfield with a $1 million donation to the campaign to assist the order in taking care of its older members.
On Aug. 10, Bishop Mitchell Rozanski made the announcement the diocese would contribute the sum.
“In doing so we are playing our part in helping ensure these dedicated women have peace of mind to know they would be cared for just as they have cared for so many over 135 years,” Rozanski said.
The Holyoke-based order discovered it has a financial problem three years ago, its president Sister Maxyne Schneider explained.
“We felt the shock of it and then immediately went to work,” she said.
Selling Mont Marie was one of the steps the order took to gain greater financial stability and moving their offices to Springfield was another, but it wasn’t enough.
“We turned to our friends,” she said.
A fund-raising campaign was established with a website (www.time2support.com) to facilitate donations.
Schneider thanked both Rozanski and his predecessor Bishop Timothy McDonnell for their support. John Foley, the co-chair of the Time to Support campaign said the $1 million donation answers the question he had heard from some people of “Where is the church in this?”
Foley added, “There was no cajoling, no pleading with Bishop Rozanski.”
Schneider explained to Reminder Publications the local order has 217 members living within a 15-mile radius of Springfield. Of that number 178 of them served in Catholic schools.
Arriving in 1883 to the area to help start a parish school in Chicopee Falls, the sisters became well known for their works as teachers. They founded or staffed 60 schools, as well as the Elms College. Members of the order also founded Homework House in Holyoke and Grey House in Springfield.
She recalled that into the 1950s, nuns who taught in Catholic schools were paid $50 a month, half of which was given to the Mother House. They lived in residences established by the parishes.
Schneider said as more lay people became teachers the nuns worked in a variety of secular social service agencies.
“Where the needs are is where our sisters are,” she said.
Schneider said the $1 million donation “greatly reduced the amount we needed.” She added, “I’m very confident of the way the campaign is going.”
Schneider is considering now extending the public effort to other communities such as Worcester, Fall River, Burlington, VT and Providence, RI.
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the lives of many Catholics here in the Diocese of Springfield, as well as in the Dioceses of Worcester, Fall River, Burlington, VT, Providence, RI, and elsewhere have been uniquely blessed by the generous and selfless work of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Their mission to unite neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God, to live simply and act for justice, remains as critical and essential today as it was in 1883 when they established the local diocesan community,” Rozanski said.