On Feb. 20, students gathered to learn from two Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJs) about their ministries serving homeless communities. In the Visitors Dining Room at Chalon, Sister Margaret O’Rourke shared stories about her work as a community organizer and her efforts supporting L.A.’s Alexandria House, a transitional housing shelter for single women and women with children. Sister Joanna Bramble offered lessons learned from her time as co-creator of the Jubilee West nonprofit and as a volunteer for St. Mary’s Center’s housing program in Oakland.
The intimate and honest conversation was exactly what organizers envisioned when this series was created earlier this year. Feet in the Street: A CSJ Social Justice Series aims to engage students — and all Mount community members — in intentional conversations around how the sisters look at the world and address social justice issues. Most students at the Mount know that the CSJs founded the University in 1925 and that sisters through the years have taught and served as leaders on campus. But with fewer sisters now on campus, not all students have had the chance to foster a relationship with a sister as previous generations at the Mount have had the fortune to do.
Bernadette Robért, associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, says her office has heard from students who missed that connection. In response, the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Mount’s CSJ Institute partnered to create Feet in the Street. The events provide chances for students to learn about the sisters’ lives and their efforts to effect change on issues of justice in the communities they serve.
“Our goal is to get the sisters in front of the students in a way that shows the relevance of the CSJs across the ages, past and present,” Robért says, “and to show how students are able to carry the charism of the CSJs forward.”
Indeed, the Mount’s own CSJ Institute has at its core a mission to advance the CSJ commitment to serve all persons without distinction, to respond to the needs of the times and to prepare fearless visionaries for a just future. And the Feet in the Street series offers masterclasses in just how students can help advance that mission.
"There is still no substitute for a face-to-face interaction with the CSJs who work for social change every day," says Shannon Green, director of the University's CSJ Institute. "Our CSJs remain role models for us all to make bold, courageous choices to advance justice in our society. Any opportunity for students and other community members to develop relationships with our sisters is invaluable."
Back in January, for instance, the debut Feet in the Street conversation featured a pair of sisters talking about their work advancing immigrant rights. Sister Theresa Kvale shared stories from the 20 years she spent working in Peru. Sister Annette Debs, who served as a teacher, attorney and administrative law judge during her career, talked about what motivated her to successfully fight for political asylum for many families fleeing violence and terror in El Salvador.
Sister Darlene M. Kawulok, CSJ, DMin, an associate professor of religious studies, has helped to recruit CSJ speakers for this series. She was motivated by the fact that, in this generation, many students have not encountered a CSJ in their time at the University.
“We saw this as a great opportunity to connect generations of sisters who have worked in areas like prison reform, homelessness and immigration with our students whose conscious awareness is being awakened through our classes and mission here at Mount Saint Mary’s,” Kawulok says.
The final spring semester opportunity for Mount community members to connect with sisters during a Feet in the Street talk came in March, at the CSJ Institute’s home in the Doheny Mansion. Prison reform and restorative justice served as the the topics for this conversation, featuring Sister Pat Krommer, Sister Suzanne Jabro and Sister Barbara Stowasser.