|October 5, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 17 • Oakland, CA|
Carondelet Sisters maintain strong presence
Four years after the founding of St. Patrick Parish in west Oakland, Rev. John B. McNally started writing letters to congregations of women religious across the country. He needed the Sisters to teach the children of his growing parish.
Four Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, also called Carondelet Sisters, first arrived in the East Bay in December 1883, according to the centennial history book of St. Patrick Parish in west Oakland. Two additional Sisters joined soon after.
The Sisters were brought to Oakland from Arizona via San Diego, said the history book. Once in Oakland, the Sisters went to work.
A new school for girls and young boys was dedicated on Dec. 30, 1883, and named the St. Joseph Institute. The first teaching staff of the St. Joseph Institute, renamed St. Patrick Elementary School in Feb. 1932, was comprised of five sisters and a superior, Sister Florence Benigna.
By 1885, when the school had run out of classrooms to serve the growing number of students, the parish shed was remodeled and became a classroom for the older boys and nicknamed "West Point University," which is attributed to Sister Mary Octavia Beaudet.
The Carondelet Sisters opened a school for the deaf, also named for St. Joseph, in 1895. The home/school was nationally renowned for its curriculum.
Often called a teaching order, the Carondelet Sisters, more than live up to their name. Members of this congregation went on to staff schools in Concord, Vallejo, Martinez, Orinda, Pleasant Hill and Lafayette. Today some of those schools and ministries the religious community has administered are no longer open. While many of the schools have remained open there are few Sisters, if any, staffing the schools.
In addition to teaching, Carondelet Sisters serve as hospital chaplains and visit inmates.
Some Sisters moved out of the classrooms and are active now in "individual ministries," such as spiritual direction, or social work, said Sister Patricia Rose Shanahan, Los Angeles province archivist for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Other ministries founded by or staffed by Carondelet Sisters in the Diocese of Oakland include St. Mary's Center, a nonprofit organization that offers services to help poverty-level older adults to pre-school children; the Bay Area Crisis Nursery, which provides a safe place for babies or respite when there is trouble at home, and other ways of providing support for families and Carondelet High School in Concord, which is celebrating 50 years of education in the diocese.
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