November 22

Remembrance of Mother St. John Fontbonne
Refounder of the Sisters of St. Joseph



Mother St. John Fontbonne was a woman who truly experienced death and rebirth. At the age of twenty-six she was elected superior of a thriving convent; at the age of thirty-four, because of the French Revolution, she was in prison facing probable execution. Caught in the political turmoil of the times, she lost her convent and all its resources. Her community was disbanded. Some of the Sisters were martyred at the guillotine and others returned to their homes or went into hiding. Her values and beliefs were the cause of her persecution. Finally she became a prisoner with no control over her future and with no recourse. There was nothing left around her but there was life in her core, and in that inner conviction the seed of new life was sheltered and it prevailed. After the revolution had ended, Jeanne Fontbonne, who had narrowly escaped the guillotine herself, refounded the Sisters of St. Joseph at Lyon, France. During her imprisonment she could hardly have imagined that Sisters of St. Joseph ministering on five continents would be her legacy. Her spirit is our heritage.


We thank You, O God, for the wonders You have worked through women of faith and courage throughout history.


Jeanne Fontbonne courageously responded to her moment in history.
What are we called to do in our time? How can we respond?

Suggested Reading


“…this valiant figure was a woman of great adaptability and flexibility, a woman of courage and daring, a woman bold in her undertaking, not because she was sure of her own strength, but because she relied on God’s loving Providence, and she placed her trust squarely there…She guided the sisters in seizing every opportunity to serve God and the dear neighbor. She asked of each of her sisters that same attentiveness born of intimate union with God and a loving compassionate service of the neighbor.”
From Prayer Remembering Mother St. John

In whatever part of the world we may be, we are never exiled…in Europe, as well as in America, God is everywhere witness of our works and struggles…My entire wish is that you be saints, and that your communities be…edifying. I implore God to pour down upon you God’s choicest blessings and assist you always with God’s grace.
Letter from Mother St. John to the Sisters in the United States


When they threatened her in prison with solitary confinement, she replied: “Which way do we go to get there?”
Quote from Mother St. John Fontbonne


O, my sisters, let us love one another.
Mother St. John Fontbonne


In your undertakings, see to it that God alone is their inspiration and their goal.
From Maxims of Perfection of the Sisters of St. Joseph

As Sisters of St. Joseph living in the 21st Century, we believe in the power, presence and love of God working through an evolving universe and in God’s self-communication through Jesus Christ. We see our charism of love of God and union with all neighbors as consistent within the context of our times and recommit ourselves to Jesus’ mission to bring about God’s reign. We seek to promote justice, be faithful to lives of non-violence and respond to the needs of women and other persons who are poor.
Direction Statement, Sisters of St. Joseph, 2011


We believe that we create the future as we move with the Spirit in giving full expression to our giftedness as women in the Church sharing equally in its mission—in living a life that is simple, prayerful, courageous and compassionate—in proclaiming with prophetic voice the Gospel to all people—in strengthening our corporateness as women in community—in demonstrating our belief in the dignity of the human person and the call to secure this dignity for all women and men—in expressing our solidarity with the poor and oppressed, in faith and hope we accept the challenges these beliefs imply.
Vision Statement, Sisters of St. Joseph