History of the Sisters of St. Joseph
The Sisters of Saint Joseph are part of the great movement of feminine apostolic religious life in the wake of Angela Merici, Mary Ward, the first project of the Visitation Sisters, the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, etc… In the XVIIth century in France, some women wished to live their consecration to God in the midst of the people and not behind cloister screens according to the laws of the Church and the customs of the times.
With the spiritual support of a Jesuit, Father Médaille, humble women gathered and supported each other in a life given wholly to God and to others. They sought to respond to the needs of their time, and they became instruments of unity and reconciliation.
On October 15, 1650, the Bishop of Le Puy, Monsignor de Maupas officially recognized the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph that was developing rapidly in the center and southeast of France. More than one hundred fifty communities were suppressed at the time of the French Revolution. The sisters dispersed, some were imprisoned and five were martyred at the guillotine.
After the revolutionary torment, the communities formed again increasingly, with Lyon becoming the origin of most of the Congregations of Saint Joseph throughout the world. On July 14, 1808, twelve young women took the habit under the tutelage of Mother Saint Jean Fontbonne, a former sister who had escaped from the revolutionary prisons. From among them, Mother Saint John Marcoux was sent to Savoy in 1812. As founder of the Congregation of Chambéry, she in turn sent sisters to Saint Jean de Maurienne and to Moûtiers in Savoy, to Turin and to Pignerole in the Piedmont, thus giving rise to new branches of Saint Joseph sisters.
From 1851 on, the sisters of Savoy went to India to strengthen the mission of the Sisters of Annecy, to Carondelet in the United States, and became established in the center of France. As the first Catholic religious to go to Scandinavia after the Reformation, they spread to Denmark (1856), Sweden (1862), Norway (1865), and Iceland (1896). In the meantime, their mission was extended to Brazil (1858) and to Russia (1863), from where they would be expelled by the Revolution. In 1872, a branch in Rome, founded by Turin, united with Chambéry.
The expansion continues in the XXth century, in Europe (Belgium Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, Wales and the Czech Republic), and also to Pakistan, to Madagascar, where the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Aosta took over the mission, to Liberia, where the mission had to be abandoned during the civil war there and to Bolivia.
The seat of the congregation was moved to Rome in 1946.
At the beginning of this century, other missions are established in Tanzania and in Mozambique.
For the last thirty years, associate members have shared the richness of our spirituality.