Sisters' hospitality, for immigrants and snowbound

The Fall 2014 issue of Connections, the magazine of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, in St. Louis, features a story about St. Joseph Sisters Ida Berresheim and Sandra Straub and their work in El Paso, Texas, at Annunciation House, serving families fleeing violence in Central America.

It’s also a story about how sisters from many congregations across the country came together and pooled resources to serve those in need.

Straub worked in the Nazareth Center, a nearby senior living center owned by the Loretto Sisters. The center had an unused wing that was converted to accommodate the flood of refugee families pouring into El Paso.

“Some of the refugees had been on the trek for a month and a half, carrying babies, small children,” Straub told Connections. “Their shoes did not fit, and often had no laces. Their clothes were torn and dirty. Many appeared to be just plain hungry.”

Berresheim, meanwhile, was housemother for the 18 sisters and two lay volunteers, who stayed at the empty convent outside of El Paso offered by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kan.

“Because [Berrescheim] was stable, the volunteers were very free to go and do that other work. We knew there’d be a hot supper ready,” Straub told the magazine. “It really freed us up because the energy it took to speak in Spanish, to do all that kind of cleaning, to listen with a good heart – you came home really, really tired.”

The magazine says the collaboration showed the true meaning of the Congregation of St. Joseph motto, “Together . . . we are more.”

Clergy on the ground in Ferguson

As they have throughout American history, Scripps Howard columnist Terry Mattingly wrote this week, clergy were at the center of the story, in this case, the story of Ferguson, Mo., after local officials announced a white police officer would not be indicted for shooting to death an unarmed black teen.

But to find the clergy, he wrote, you had to look hard, because some media outlets seemed to pointedly ignore them. Others, like The Washington Post, seemed to have made an extra effort to connect with the religious leaders of the community.

“. . . The work of the clergy who had long been been active at grassroots level was followed closely by Post reporters when, literally, push came to shove,” Mattingly wrote.

Epic snowfall can’t stop Mercy

When Buffalo, N.Y., was covered in 70 inches of snow, everything in the city was buried – including the Sisters of Mercy.

“Every time I looked out the window, early morning, mid-morning, afternoon, after supper, and even at 2 a.m., I saw high winds with heavy snow whipping around,” one sister reported. “I couldn’t see across the street.”

The Sacred Heart Convent in Orchard Park, near West Seneca, had unexpected guests: A maintenance worker who works with the sisters and his mother were stuck in his truck for eight hours because of the snow, but finally made it to the convent, where they were then put up in the parish rectory.

At the sisters’ Mercy Center, some of the staff had to stay for several days because they couldn’t get home, and several sisters had to pitch in and help because other staff members couldn’t get to work.

“We are conserving food supply by serving one meal per day in the dining room and eating provisions in the small group lounges, except for the infirmary and assisted living,” one sister reported.

And – as sisters are apt to do – instead of complaining, the storm simply made them more thankful.

“Sisters have been helping in the infirmary, with meals and dishes. We have so much to be grateful for,” they said.

[Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. Follow him on Twitter @DanStockman or on Facebook at]