The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange are a congregation of Catholic women who share a common foundation and mission with the worldwide federation of Sisters of St. Joseph, also known as the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, abbreviated CSJ or SSJ, which was founded in 1650 in Le Puy, France by women of whom we know little more than their names, and by a Jesuit priest, Jean-Pierre Medaille.
The mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange – of all Sisters of St. Joseph – is to bring all people into union with God and with one another, serving them according to their needs and their own various gifts. The Sisters’ work since arriving in California in 1912, has been to address the ills of society, adapt to the needs of the time, and help improve the well-being of the local community.
The Sisters’ commitment to education is expressed in a variety of forms including elementary, secondary, university and other adult education. The commitment to extend their healing mission is expressed through acute care hospitals, rehabilitation programs, home health care, community education, primary care clinics, and wellness programs.
Ever mindful of the diverse and unmet needs of the “dear neighbor”, the work of the Sisters is constantly expanding and evolving. Today, their ministry extends beyond education and health care, to include such things as helping immigrants, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, and fostering spiritual development.
The Sisters and LMU
Education is what originally brought the Sisters to California. In 1912, the congregation’s founder, Mother Bernard Gosselin, and eight sisters left LaGrange, Illinois to establish a school in Eureka, California at the request of the local bishop. Although the Sisters were well known for their work in primary and secondary education, they were no stranger to higher education.
The Sisters opened a vocational college, the St. Joseph School of Nursing, in 1920 as an extension of their first hospital. This was followed in 1933 with the Nazareth College in Orange, a teachers college affiliated with Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles (opened by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1925), at which sisters could work towards their degrees between teaching and ministry responsibilities. In 1953, their teacher and nursing programs reorganized and affiliated with the Catholic University of America under the name St. Joseph’s College.
Finally in 1959, in fulfillment of a long-held dream, the college incorporated as St. Joseph College of Orange, an autonomous four-year institution, with accreditation awarded three years later. The newly independent liberal arts college continued to serve primarily women religious.
At the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council in December 1965, numerous changes began to sweep through the global Church, some of which directly affected the life of women religious, the role of laity, and higher education. Recognizing that Catholic higher education was better served by one strong institution rather than a series of smaller ones, the Sisters and St. Joseph College of Orange took up an offer from the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary and Marymount College, whose campus was in Palos Verdes at that time, to affiliate in 1967. St. Joseph and Marymount merged in 1968 under the Marymount name. Known as the Marymount College Agreement, the newly merged, two-campus college was administered "co-equally" by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. St. Joseph College’s campus was renamed Marymount College of Orange.
That same year, the newly cosponsored Marymount College began an affiliation with the Jesuit's Loyola University in Los Angeles.
In 1973, Marymount College and Loyola University formerly merged into Loyola Marymount University, a single institution sponsored by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, and the Sisters of St. Joseph Orange. The campus in Orange was once again renamed, this time as the Orange Campus of Loyola Marymount University, and would continue as a second home for the Division of Continuing Education and Summer Session (now LMU Extension) through the 1980s.
Today, the Sisters continue to be a vibrant and active presence at LMU, with some still serving on campus as faculty, ministers, administrators and trustees. Similarly, under management of the congregation, the campus in Orange continues to operate as a site for graduate and continuing education, most notably with the University of San Francisco, as well as a number of spiritual formation programs and special events for the public.
- Center for Spiritual Development
- CSJ Educational Network
- Loyola Marymount University
- Providence-St. Joseph Health
- Sisters of St. Joseph Healthcare Foundation
- St. Joseph Justice Center
- St. Joseph Worker Program
- Villa St. Joseph
- Art for the Soul: The Works of Sister Madeleva Williams, CSJ
- A Bold and Humble Love: Journey of Grace and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, 1912-2012 by Mary Therese Sweeney and Eileen McNerney
- A Compassionate Presence: The Story of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange by Brad Geagley
- A Story of Suffering and Hope: Lessons from Latino Youth by Eileen McNerney
- Trapped in Paradise: Catholic Nuns in the South Pacific, 1940-1943 edited by Eileen McNerney and Maureen McNerney Habel