Summary of today’s show: One of the newest faculty members at St. John Seminary is Sr. Jeanne Gribaudo, CSJ. As a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, her roots in the area grow deep and she has served the people of the area as a parochial school teacher, a youth minister, a college professor, and even an advisor to the Mayor of Boston. Sr. Jeanne talks with Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor about growing up in Roslindale, her vocation among the Sisters of St. Joseph, her ministry, and the final homestretch toward her PhD.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor
Today’s guest(s): Sr. Jeanne Gribaudo, CSJ
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Today’s topics:Sr. Jeanne Gribaudo, CSJ
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed Fr. Chris to the show. They are taping from St. John Seminary. The guest is Sr. Jeanne Gribaudo is a new member of the faculty at the seminary and the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization.
Fr. Chris said they are planning for the ordination on June 23. Fr. Chris has been asked to be the vesting priest for Deacon Eric Bennett. They also discussed the other seminarians being ordained as well.
2nd segment: Scot and Fr. Chris welcome Sr. Jeanne to the show. She said said she grew up in Sacred Heart parish in Roslindale. They had the Sisters of St. Joseph at the school and they had a very positive influence on her life. In the sixth grade she transferred to public school, but she still had the feeling that she wanted to be a religious. When she graduated from high school she met with a vocation director. She went to Stonehill College and after 4 years there, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph.
She said the Sisters at Sacred Heart so obviously enjoyed each other. She recalled how the Sisters joked with each other and needled each other. They had a care and concern and deep faith. She saw them in church all the time.
Sr. Jeanne said the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph is unity and reconciliation. They are built on an Ignatian-Salesian spirituality. For years, they taught in the archdiocese, but they expanded to social work, outreach to immigrants, and especially human trafficking. Fr. Chris asked her to expand on that. Sr. Jeanne said the spirituality is ad extra, as opposed to ad intra. Their community life is concerned with love of neighbor and being diocesan. The order belongs to the Archdiocese in a special way.
Scot said so many religious orders are worldwide, but the Sisters of St. Joseph are locally based. Sr. Jeanne said so many of the priests and laypeople approach the CSJ and ask them about other CSJ they have known. Scot said it’s similar to diocesan priests in that the CSJ stay local frost of their lives. Sr. Jeanne said there is an exception. She recalled that Cardinal Cushing sent some of the Sisters to Peru to assist with the St. James Society.
On her home parish, she recalled the pastors of her childhood. She said they had six or seven priests in the rectory and they would say that the parish ran the priests, not the other way around. The parish was divided into six regions and each priest was assigned to that area. That’s how big it was. Everything in the area revolved around the church.
Fr. Chris said growing up people’s parish identity was part of their whole identity. When asked, where are you from, people responded with their parish name.
Sr. Jeanne said she was the youngest of four. Her brothers were altar boys and her sister was in May processions. She said we need to bring that back and that’s why the New Evangelization is so important. People need those moments to hold onto.
Scot asked if it was uncommon for someone to leave parochial school to go to public school. Sr. Jeanne said her mother didn’t want to let her go to Boston Latin School, but one of the sisters convinced her. When she told her parents she was thinking of religious life, her family was supportive but wary, especially since vocations had started to go down. Extended family wasn’t as supportive in the time after Vatican II. There were some impulses in the Church that needed to have the kinks worked out. Fr. Chris noted that much of the confusion has abated, which works better for the men in the seminary. On the other hand, many major societal questions have cropped up, like assisted suicide and the like, topics they would never have worried about 15 years ago.
Sr. Jeanne said when she first entered the order in 1988 as a postulant. She was there 1-1/2 years and taught English at the high school level at St. Columbkille’s in Brighton. From there she went to the novitiate at Sacred Heart in Watertown for two years. There were two novices at the time. during the first year, she entered community programs and the second year she volunteered 4 days a week somewhere. She went to Msgr. Charles Bourque and they started a Jamaica Plain CYO with all kinds of sports teams. She did all kinds of fundraising and credited Doyle’s in JP for donating tons of pizza to the kids, including every Friday during the summer. She said those are the memories the kids will remember.
She began to work with local political leaders to get the gyms open for the kids. She recalled working with the then-City Council president and then acting Mayor, Tom Menino. She pestered him so much he called her Sister Relentless. Afterward, he asked her to be his city youth advisor and offered her a job. But she got advice that it wouldn’t be good to take a salary but to do it for $1 per year. She helped streamline the youth programs. She helped start the mayor’s youth council, which is juniors and seniors who represent their section of the city who meet with the mayor every 4 to 6 weeks.
Scot asked what it was like to work in a political environment as a sister. Sr. Jeanne said you’d be surprised how many sisters get involved with politics at some level to get assistance for programs they’re running. She said because she wasn’t taking a salary, she felt free to speak her mind about things. It can be heady wine, she said, being invited to go to the White House to meet the president, for example. That can all be seductive and she tried to balance it with her life in Christ.
Sr. Jeanne said it was a privileged place to be in, in order to speak to the mayor about matters of concern to the Church and vice versa. So often between the religious world and political world, everything is passed secondhand and thirdhand. She told a story about teaching college students and when they realize how important it is to not implicitly trust the media reporting, but to go to the original sources and find out for themselves.
In addition to those assignments, Sr. Jeanne has worked at Stonehill College as assistant to the president. Since she’d been a student there before, it was fun to go back there. She’s also done a lot of fundraising.
She’s very proud that she worked with Ron Burton, former New England Patriot, to start a scholarship for two students per year at the Ron Burton Training Village to go to Stonehill. They have two students from Eritrea who are freshman and junior this year at Stonehill.
Scot asked about the courses she was teaching at Fairfield University and Sacred Heart in Connecticut. Sr. Jeanne said she talked to the chairs of the departments who were having her teaching courses at the colleges in which they talked about the tough ethical issues, like euthanasia, abortion, exploitation of persons. She said it’s a scary time and the students were often horrified about the way the dignity of human life is trampled today and became more and more enamored of the Church’s teachings in these areas.
3rd segment: Scot asked Sr. Jeanne about her doctorate program. Sr. Jeanne said she remembers when she first started and was told by her advisor that he couldn’t explain what it would be like, but after she would understand. Fr. Chris said he was breaking into a sweat listening to her. She discussed how much work was completed to get to her dissertation. She’s just got back the first chapter of her dissertation from one of three readers giving her feedback. She’s writing on the holiness and sinfulness of the Church. She’s focusing on six theologians who had a lot of influence on Vatican II’s document, Lumen Gentium, and how that affected John Paul II’s millennial apology. She said it was prophetic. The apology means that there are times when the members of the Church all sin and the Church composed of sinners asks for forgiveness. She said Pope John Paul II relied a lot on one of those theologians, Hans Urs von Balthasar, with a profound understanding of humanity on a journey toward God.
Fr. Chris said she has to finish writing and then has to do a two-hour defense. Sr. Jeanne said hopefully it will be late fall or early spring.
Scot asked what led her to study ecclessiology, the theology of the Church. Sr. Jeanne said she’s often hear people say: Jesus, yes; the Church, no. But Pope Paul VI said we can’t live that way.You can’t have one and not the other. It’s a both/and. You have to have the Church in order to have Jesus. You can’t write 260 pages without having a passion for the topic.
Sr. Jeanne said we sometimes throw out the word “Church” without defining our terms. She said you can’t say the “Church is sinful” because then you are saying Christ is sinful. So we have to be very careful.
Scot asked what Sr. Jeanne will be doing at St. John Seminary and the TINE program. She has started by teaching an ecclesiology course. She said the class is an evening seminar from 6-9pm with 9 students from all walks of life studying for the Master of Arts in Ministry.She’s also been asked to work on some parish outreach for the New Evangelization, helping to bring it to the parishes in a user-friendly way.
Scot said the New Evangelization needs to take up a programmatic format in the parishes. Sr. Jeanne hopes that young people in the archdiocese will be involved in some contests to do something for the new evangelization. She wants to get young people excited.
They discussed the Year of Faith and how it integrates the New Evangelization. One idea is to bring young people to see what the seminary is all about, not just those who might be discerning priesthood.
Sr. Jeanne said we don’t talk enough about the vocation of family life and marriage. Her favorite line in the Catechism is that parents are first and best teachers of the faith.
One of her great joys is when former students come to see her and tell her that they have stay involved in their faith. She also hears from current students who haven’t been practicing their faith who have started.
Fr. Chris asked who her favorite saint is. She said John Henry Newman, especially his poem “One Kindly Light”. Also, St. Peter Canisius, because he did so much with religious education.
With regard to parents who thinks the children are lost to the faith, Sr. Jeanne advises they don’t give up on them. Look for the right program, even if your parish doesn’t have it and you have to go to another. Look at outreach programs. Encourage your college student to do an alternative Spring Break or a year of service. Scot asked why students connect with the faith on a service project. Sr. Jeanne said it’s because they see their faith in action, helping real people. It’s not just talk, but it makes a difference.
Scot asked how our families and parishes overcome sinfulness and strive toward holiness. Sr. Jeanne said her mother always used to say, There but for the grace of God, go I. There’s enough blame and judgment to go around, but we could ask what if we were in the other’s shoes. The sacraments do not depend on the holiness of any of us. That grace comes from God. We can forget the rudimentary teachings about God. Often people leave the Church because they don’t understand the teachings of the Church. Don’t get your understanding of the Church from the media. Try to read the original documents, like the Catechism of the Catholic Church or theYoucat, which is a version of the Catechism for young adults.
They talked examples of people misunderstanding their status with regard to the Church, like with divorce or other matters. Don’t be afraid to find out more and talk to a priest.
Fr. Chris asked the most important fact to know about the Church. Sr. Jeanne said that it is Christ present on earth. The Church makes mistakes, but it’s our way to Christ and it’s our home. Even if you’ve been away forever, you can always go home.