We Plant Seeds and Unifying Love Flares!

Reminiscing During Catholic Schools Week

Beth Sheehan, CSJ Associate

“I love my job! Being able to bring God’s love to children every day gives meaning to my life.” It was a dreary Friday afternoon when Beth Sheehan made this comment about her ministry at Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy. As Beth reflected on how her work at JPIICA reflects unifying love, it flared in her words, her facial expression, and her enthusiasm.

In the latter half of the 20th century, Sisters Mary Olive Williams, CSJ, and Eustace Caggiano, CSJ, modeled love of neighbor in a profound way. A teacher and a cook, they began ministering to neighbors of Boston’s South End Cathedral Parish — a community that faced food insecurity and material poverty, rooted in xenophobia, systemic racism, and the poverty cycle. Sister Mary Olive’s students taught her about their experience of hunger and living conditions often ignored by city officials. Moved to action, she insisted no one take notice as she delivered large grocery bags to residents of Cathedral Housing Project.

Sister Eustace Caggiano, CSJ, the cook at Cathedral Convent, befriended her Spanish-speaking neighbors and began offering food to children at the convent’s back door. Soon, she ministered full-time at El Centro del Cardenal, the cathedral’s Hispanic apostolate. Her ministry expanded to aiding immigrant families of many backgrounds and gaining a reputation as a friend to new Bostonians.

Both set an example of shared responsibility for the common good. A teacher and a cook could have reacted to poverty by saying, “That’s not my job.” Instead, they heard the voice of the marginalized, responded, and today unifying love flares.

These stories contain seeds of The Literacy Connection, The Women’s Table, Casserly House, and Bethany Hill Place — all ministries of the congregation that currently assist people who face disproportionate challenges for various reasons. In the wake of the pandemic, unifying love continues to flare in Brighton, Framingham, and Roslindale, where these ministries are located. Many donate food and gift cards distributed through back doors, on street corners, in parking lots, and wherever they meet the “Dear Neighbor.”

This season of outreach and giving seems an appropriate time to reflect on varied ways in which Sisters of St. Joseph and those who partner with us continue the mission of our first sisters and do “all of which women are capable.”


Contributors Gail Donahue, CSJ, Beth Sheehan, CSJA, and Joanne Gallagher, CSJ
Acknowledgements: 125 Years Telling the Story of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, CSJ Boston Archives, and Lisa Warshafsky, Principal SJPIICA Lower Mills Campus