Catholic Sisters Week
Celebrating Traditions; Changing the World
March 8-14 

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By Joanne Gallagher, CSJ

This article was written for the Catholic Sisters Week Special Section of Boston’s Catholic Newspaper, The Pilot.
You can view the entire Special Section here:

Catholic Sisters Week is about honoring sisters, but it’s also about so much more. It’s about recognizing and honoring traditions that have helped shape our culture through Catholic education, health care ministry, parish ministry, spiritual ministry, peace and justice work and more.

This year’s theme for Catholic Sisters Week is “Celebrating Traditions; Changing the World”. For centuries, Catholic sisters have been impelled by the courage to respond to the gospel call and minister among people in places where their mission meets the moment. As with many congregations in the Boston area, Sisters of St. Joseph were invited here to minister among a growing immigrant population of the 1870s. It was a time of rapid growth for the Catholic immigrant population who were underserved by the local public schools. Prejudice was strong and Catholic children could not enroll in public schools. In response to the need of that moment, the tradition of Catholic parish and private schools staffed by sisters from various congregations grew rapidly in the Boston area and elsewhere. The mission of these sisters met the need of the moment and our world was forever changed by the faith-based values and educational excellence that characterized these schools.

Education continues to be an important part of the mission and ministry of sisters. In the Boston area alone the Sisters of St. Joseph sponsor Regis College, The Jackson School, Walnut Park Montessori, St. Joseph Preparatory High School, and Fontbonne: The Early College of Boston. You will also find sisters in other elementary schools, high schools, and colleges in the area. In addition, we reach out through educational programs via Bethany Hill Place, The Literacy Connection, Casserly House and The Women’s Table. The transition in how sisters continue the ministry of education is in response to this moment in time. In some situations, the traditional “classroom” may look different, however, our sisters continue to reach out to an immigrant population as they did in the 1870s. 

If you’re a spiritual seeker, chances are someone who helped form you was formed by a Catholic Sister. Katie Gordon, an organizer with Nuns and Nones, a collaboration between Catholic Sisters and spiritually diverse seekers, recently spoke about this saying that, “spiritual seekers are drawn to stories of sisters because they are stories of transformation – personal and spiritual transformation as well as social and systemic transformation.”  

During Catholic Sisters Week, we celebrate these roots. We also celebrate the many ways the mission of Catholic sisters continues to emerge in the presence of associates, oblates, agrégées and partners in mission who not only celebrate traditions that shaped who they are but continue to respond in ways that the mission of their founding congregation meets the call of our 21st century moment – a moment that calls for creativity and innovation in areas such as education, health care, spiritual programs, and more.

This year’s Catholic Sisters Week committee includes two local sisters, Joanne Gallagher, CSJ, and Marian Batho, CSJ. Along with several others from across the country, they have been meeting regularly to spread the word of this week, create a website that will invite many to be aware of this week and strengthen connections as we continue to tell the story of Catholic Sisters today.

Be sure to visit the Catholic Sisters Week website at to learn more about all that is going on. Locally, the Sisters of St. Joseph are involved in several virtual events which can be found on the Catholic Sisters Week website. 

Fifty-two weeks a year women religious stand with the poor and immigrants, teach children, fight injustice, heal the sick, share spirituality, empower women, defend the planet, promote peace, create community, offer hope. But for one week, March 8-14, we shine the spotlight on women religious and encourage a wide range of campaigns and events that invite all who follow Jesus to expand and support their gospel witness, grow the service networks they have seeded, share their spirituality, charisms, and community, encourage young women to consider a vocation to religious life, support their pastoral, teaching and prophetic works, and focus on the new world they call into being. Make sure you check it out. We’re telling the story and strengthening relationships for mission as we celebrate this week.

PICTURED ABOVE: Catholic Sisters Week Planning Group during one of many Zoom meetings: Left to Right/Top to Bottom – Brian Lavalle, Staff, Communicators for Women Religious; Joanne Gallagher, CSJ, Director of Communications, Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston; Siobhan O’Neill Meluso, Communications Coordinator, Benedictine Sisters of Chicago; Linda Romey, OSB, Leadership Team, Benedictine Sisters of Erie; Spalding Hurst, Communications Specialist, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth; Ginny Hizer, Executive Director, Communicators for Women Religious; Marian Batho, CSJ, Leadership Team, Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston.