Ever since the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose founded St. Catherine’s Academy in Anaheim in 1889, religious sisters and consecrated women have helped shape Orange County’s Catholic community.
As the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange celebrate their 100th anniversary this year, it’s a fitting time to consider the many sisters and their ministries, the gifts they offer the faith and the faithful, and their distinctive missions.
“Certainly, the Sisters of St. Joseph, who moved here in 1922, have been foundational to the formation of the Diocese, and to the ministry of the Catholic Church in Orange County,” acknowledged Joan Patten, AO, delegate for Consecrated Life in the Diocese of Orange’s vocation office.
Altogether Patten said 26 different women’s religious communities and three secular institutes operate here, with each dedicated to vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as they permanently give their lives to God. Each community has a distinctive mission, or charism.
The Missionaries of Charity are the only contemplative order in the Diocese and recently marked their first-year anniversary in the Santa Ana motherhouse.
“A lot of religious communities are what we call active contemplatives, who take on apostolic work such as ministries in health care or education, and live lives of prayer as well,” she added.
Among the newer orders are the Buena Park-based Sisters of Perpetual Help, whose Bible Life Movement ministers to Korean Americans. The Lovers of the Holy Cross work with the county’s Vietnamese Americans and first arrived in the Diocese at the request of founding Bishop William R. Johnson in 1978.
While their dedication to the Church is similar to that of male priests, women religious – with their innate sensitivity and receptiveness – are uniquely suited to ministries such as pastoral care, medical work and education, Patten explained.
“The sisters provide long-term steady faithfulness in our lives,” she said. “So many people talk about remembering their first-grade teacher. It’s amazing that sisters enter into people’s lives with love in a special way – it’s a beautiful witness to living out their spiritual maturity.”
While Catholics commonly see sisters teaching, ministering in hospitals and performing community outreach, she said, it’s fun to see a group of sisters doing something out of the ordinary, such as Norbertine sisters playing basketball or the Sisters of St. Clare helping with mission trips to India.
Possessing what St. Pope John Paul II called ‘the feminine genius,’ women are models of receptivity who teach us how to fully receive God in His love and grace, Patten said. “We need people who live in a way that shows us that Jesus is the fulfillment of every desire they have.”
The Maria Ferrucci Catholic Family Living feature is intended to inspire families to live their faith in the way Maria Ferrucci did throughout her earthly life.