Avila Now

February 2, 2021

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis Province Establish St. Joseph Educational Ministries

St. Joseph Educational Ministries: Innovation in Catholic Education
SJEM square.

Empowering the laity to continue the mission of Catholic educatio

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet of the St. Louis province are proud of the five educational institutions they founded and want to see their impact on Catholic education continue for generations to come. To achieve this goal,the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are taking an innovative step, empowering the laity to continue the educational ministry that the sisters have established.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis Province is transferring sponsorship of the sisters’ educational institutions to the newly established St. Joseph Educational Ministries (SJEM).

SJEM is a model of Catholic sponsorship called a ministerial public juridic person, a status granted to SJEM by the Vatican that enables lay people to take on the sponsorship role traditionally held only by religious. Although “ministerial public juridic person” sounds like an individual, it is a canonical term for a group of persons who together further the mission of the church.

“Religious institutes have seen success with this model for decades, but SJEM is one of the first of its kind for education in the United States. The Sisters of St. Joseph are known for being trailblazers in education, and we are proud to be at the forefront of this movement,” says Sister Amy Hereford, member of the St. Louis Province Leadership Team.

SJEM will serve as the bridge between the schools and the church as it assumes the responsibility for ensuring that Catholic identity and the Sisters of St. Joseph’s mission of “serving the dear neighbor” are retained at the schools in perpetuity. 

“As responsible stewards, we are proactively establishing a structure that ensures the schools remain Catholic and true to our values,” says Hereford. “We believe the ministerial public juridic person is the next step in the evolution of Catholic education as the laity are already serving as leaders who ensure that the mission and Catholic identity are being lived out on our campuses.”

SJEM member schools are:

  • Avila University, Kansas City, Missouri (est. 1916)
  • Fontbonne University, St. Louis, Missouri (est. 1923)
  • St. Joseph’s Academy, St. Louis, Missouri (est. 1840)
  • St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis, Missouri and Indianapolis, Indiana (est. 1837) 
  • St. Teresa’s Academy, Kansas City, Missouri (est. 1866)

The sisters will remain active and present at the schools, serving as board members, employees, volunteers and prayer partners. They also will serve alongside the laity as members of SJEM as well as lead the educational formation program for the members. Day-to-day operations at the schools are not affected by this new arrangement as finance, governance and academics remain the responsibility of school administrators and boards.

The members of SJEM, appointed by the sisters’ St. Louis Province Leadership, are chosen based on criteria that demonstrates a commitment to Catholic education ministry in the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet’s tradition. Members are charged with applying Catholic theological tradition, the Sisters of St. Joseph’s heritage, and Catholic social teaching; identifying and implementing organizational activities at the schools; and taking a leading role in discourse with church leaders.

 “This is the expression of Vatican II’s call to recognize the laity as an integral part of the life of the church and a means of fostering our common Christian vocation in living out the Gospel,” says Hereford. “These lay leaders will respond in a new way to their baptismal call as part of the educational ministry of the church.”

Transition to and implementation of SJEM is an ongoing process. At this time, the formation process for prospective members has begun, and the members will be formally commissioned in the spring of 2021. The full transition of sponsorship to SJEM is anticipated in spring 2022.

More information can be found on the CSJ website.

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