As a result of the tumultuous decade of the 1960s, divergent views of religious life and Church authority were emerging from among the Sisters. Mother Joanne, Sister Eileen and Sister Giovanni were directed by the Holy See to find another diocese that would welcome them and their works. They began this search, hoping that someday this small beginning would grow into a province of their California Institute.
The Sisters were attracted to Wichita because of its fidelity and orthodoxy. Bishop Maloney was attracted to the Sisters’ mission of contemplation of the Word and the spread of the Gospel through works of education. It was a good fit. He invited them, and they arrived on June 22, 1976 with only a few possessions and a few dollars to begin their new life. The Sisters of St. Joseph, especially Sister Ephrem and Sister Matthew, helped the newly arrived Sisters, most notably by keeping their refrigerator and pantry stocked until they had a regular income.
Mother Joanne would often muse that they were called from the vineyards of California to the wheat fields of Kansas … the Eucharistic sacrifice played out in their lives.
The Sisters did not come into an unknown land to become foundresses of a religious institute. They were just trying to remain faithful to what they professed in California. Our gratitude for their sacrifice is indescribable. Not one of us would be here today, not one of us would be an IHM today, without the sacrifice of these three Sisters, who very unassumingly came to Wichita to live the life they vowed to live.
Psalm 126 describes it fittingly: They go out, they go out full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing, Now we, come back, come back full of song, carrying their sheaves. What they sowed in tears we today reap rejoicing.
Our three foundresses have set us firmly on the path; they have instilled within us an undying love for the Church, for God’s people, for our apostolate of praying for the conversion of sinners and the sanctification of priests, and for the apostolate of forming and informing the faithful, especially through the works of education.
When the Mothers came to Wichita they were in there 60s and 70s. They literally picked up, left everything they knew and the land they called home and came to a new land, a land they knew not … just like Abraham who was promised a blessing and a great nation in his descendants. We hope and pray that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Mother Joanne, Sister Eileen and Sister Giovanni, will bless us too with growth in holiness and in number.
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