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In search of the founders

Two Mount Saint Mary’s University students will participate in a pilgrimage this June to Le Puy, France, to explore the foundations of the Sisters of St. Joseph and to walk in the footsteps of the University’s founders. Caitlyn Keeve ’20 and Daisy Cruz ’20 will have the chance to visit the city where, in 1650, the Sisters of St. Joseph first gathered; 275 years later, those sisters’ spiritual descendants founded Mount Saint Mary’s in the Santa Monica Mountains above Los Angeles.

Daisy Cruz '20 and Caitlyn Keeve '20 are heading to Le Puy, France, this summer.
Daisy Cruz '20 and Caitlyn Keeve '20 are heading to Le Puy, France, this summer.

The summer tour is hosted by the Association of Colleges of the Sisters of St. Joseph (ACSSJ), which connects the nine schools in the United States that were founded by Sisters of St. Joseph, including Mount Saint Mary’s in L.A., St. Joseph’s College in New York, Avila University in Kansas City, and St. Catherine’s in St. Paul, Minn. Each of these universities will send two student pilgrims on the journey, which will be led by Martha Malinski, director of ACSSJ, and CSJ Sisters Joan Lescinski and Kitty Hanley.

Mount Saint Mary’s CSJ Institute, in partnership with Campus Ministry, invited sophomores to apply for the opportunity. In late November, Keeve and Cruz received the good news that they had been selected to represent the Mount on the pilgrimage. The two also received scholarships for their travels, thanks to the generosity of Weekend/Evening College alumna Jane Harris Nadeau ’98, who went on a CSJ Heritage Tour to Le Puy herself in 2017 – an experience for alums, faculty and staff that was led by President Ann McElaney-Johnson. Nadeau, who is also a University regent and campaign cabinet committee member, said she wanted students to have the same special opportunity that she had.

"My Le Puy experience was life-changing for me on many levels and I thought it was important to give others a chance to have a similar experience," Nadeau said. "I know my experiences at the Mount as a working adult in the weekend program are very different from a young person in the day program. But what isn’t different is learning -- and the pilgrimage to Le Puy is a tremendous learning experience."

Cruz and Keeve are already looking forward to their Le Puy journey. In her application, Cruz, a student leader in Campus Ministry, shared that what caught her attention most about the story of the sisters was their initial ministry of lace-making. “They took the time to teach other women skills that they were able to utilize into their lives and make it out there in the world for themselves, as opposed to resorting to other life choices that would not benefit them,” Cruz wrote. “This inspires me to be a better person and do what they did by helping others.”

Keeve, a leadership scholar, was inspired to apply for the pilgrimage after learning more about the sisters during CSJ Week last year. She was assigned by the Mount yearbook team to photograph the events and found herself drawn to the stories and achievements of the sisters and the inspiration it brings to her own desire to be an engaged citizen. “I found the resilience of each sister’s experience most intriguing…I know that the sisters were, and are, a fierce group of change-makers in the world, and I would like to participate in the evolving history of their legacy and where it all started,” Keeve wrote in her application.

Learn more about the University’s CSJ Institute at msmu.edu/csjinstitute.

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