Sisters of St. Joseph and Their History
Sponsorship of a health care ministry is a formal relationship between an authorized Catholic organization (Sisters of St. Joseph) and a legally formed entity (Villa St. Joseph) entered into for the sake of promoting and sustaining Christ’s healing ministry to people in need. It is a structured relationship through which the sponsor, in the name of the Church, directs and influences a ministry that meets an apostolic need and ensures the Catholic identity of its ministries to carry out the work of the Church. The mission and values of Villa St. Joseph are rooted in the history, tradition, charism and values of its sponsor, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, PA.
17th Century France
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden trace their origins to Le Puy, France, in 1650 when small groups of women began an earnest attempt to live totally in union with God and to serve their neighbors. They nursed the sick, assisted the poor, sheltered the abandoned, and cared for orphaned children. Father Jean-Pierre Medaille, a Jesuit priest, directed the first daughters of Joseph and fostered their call to serve the needs of the time. The sisters were not to be cloistered, but were to go out to the city to serve the “dear neighbor” through dedication to the practice of all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy of which a woman was capable. The Congregation of St. Joseph flourished for more than a century.
The French Revolution
When the French Revolution began in 1789, religious communities were suppressed and were forced to disband. Some sisters were imprisoned and guillotined, while others returned to their family homes. One of these women was Jeanne Fontbonne who was imprisoned and scheduled to be guillotined. Her life was spared when, on the eve of her execution, the fall of Robespierre occurred and the Reign of Terror ended on July 27, 1794. Jeanne returned to her family home.
In 1807 the Bishop of Lyons asked Jeanne, also known as Mother St. John Fontbonne, to refound the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in his diocese. It is through Mother St. John that the continuity with the 1650 foundation was maintained.
Arriving in the America
In 1836 in response to a request from the Bishop of St. Louis, Mother St. John sent six sisters to Carondelet, MO, to educate children with special ministry to deaf-mute children. From there, Congregations of the Sisters of St. Joseph were established throughout the United States.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden
In 1869 three pioneering sisters from the Brentwood, NY, community arrived in Ebensburg, PA, to establish a new branch of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Among the three sisters was Sister Austin Keane, a native of nearby Loretto, PA. She had been baptized by Father Demetrius Gallitzin, the pioneering priest of Western Pennsylvania. The sisters immediately established Mount Gallitzin Seminary for boys. Thirty years later the community numbered more than 100 sisters.
The Move to Baden, PA
Toward the end of the century, the sisters sought property closer to Pittsburgh. In 1901 they purchased farmland in Baden, PA. There they built a four-story school and convent to serve both Mt. Gallitzin Academy and their Motherhouse.Their ministries grew to include education, health care, social work, pastoral care, care for children and the elderly, and missions to China and other countries.
Villa St. Joseph
In 1997 the Congregation sponsored a new ministry to the elderly. Villa St. Joseph, a 120-bed skilled and long-term care facility with specialized dementia care opened its door on February 20th and was dedicated on May 1, 1997. Its mission of excellence in compassionate care, which gives witness to a profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction, is rooted in the foundation of its sponsor, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden.
St. Joseph, Our Patron
St Joseph is the patron saint of the sisters and of the Villa. Joseph is the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. In the manner of Joseph, the Villa staff extends a cordial hospitality to all who enter its doors. St. Joseph is a model of humility, patience, caring, justice and obedience to the will of God. He was a carpenter by trade and is the patron saint of workers. St. Joseph’s feast day is celebrated on March 19th and the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker is celebrated on May 1st. St. Joseph is the Patron of the Universal Church.
In 2010, the sister joined with 14,000 other Sisters of St. Joseph around the world to celebrate 360 years of ministry.
For more information on the Sisters of St. Joseph, click on thier website at www.stjoseph-baden.org/