Catholic Faith

Foundations of Faith

Faith is the cornerstone upon which STA was founded, and it continues to guide us in ways large and small. Guided by loving unity and the charism of our founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ), faith is ever-present across campus, providing the strength and wisdom gained through a close connection with God and each other.

Since their inception nearly 400 years ago, the Sisters of St. Joseph have been risk-takers, breaking away from society’s historically imposed restrictions on women and responding to the needs of the times. 

Until the seventh century, women called to religious life had to live behind cloistered walls, away from their communities and neighbors, and the struggles they endured. 

In 1647, Father Jean Pierre Medailly, a Jesuit priest in LePuy, France, gathered a group of religious women who designed the model for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1650, the six sisters broke away from the traditional religious cloistered life and set out with a mission to accomplish “all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy of which women are capable.” To better serve everyone in their community, the sisters divided the city into different sections to identify the needs of the residents – including orphans, prisoners, the sick and the poor.

These six sisters worked throughout the day to serve the dear neighbor, gathering afterward to discuss their experiences and consider how their work and faith moved them as individuals and as a group. This “sharing of the heart” led the women deeper into their community, their mission, and into the mystery of God in their lives.

Some sisters in these early communities made ribbon and lace for income to support the group and their outreach. This income allowed them to do the work they felt called by God to do. The sisters also taught the poor women and children of the community to make lace as well, giving them the ability to earn their own livelihood.

By the late 1770s, the congregation had grown 100 fold, and so had the hostility toward the Catholic Church. With the French Revolution underway, convents were suppressed and the sisters were forced to live as laypersons. Many were imprisoned and executed. Mother St. John Fontbonne, an original sister, narrowly escaped death the day before her beheading, when Maximilien Robespierre fell from power and all prisoners were freed. 

In 1808, Mother St. John went on to restore the sisters so they could tend to post-Revolution needs. The congregation was re-founded when 12 women were formally received as Sisters of St. Joseph.

In the century leading up to the 1830s, the sisters opened schools, hospitals and missions throughout France.  

In 1835, French benefactress Countess de la Rochejacquelein contacted Italian-born Bishop Joseph Rosati to make a mission to the New World to share the spirit of the order with the sisters’ help. The following year, six young sisters endured seven treacherous weeks at sea and eventually reached St. Louis on March 25, 1836. They established residency in a humble log cabin in a nearby village named Carondelet, thus marking the start of the great missionary movement of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

By the 1860s, the Sisters of St. Joseph had established an American ministry that expanded into places such as Pennsylvania, New York, Mississippi and West Virginia. In 1866, the sisters established St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City, Missouri, in the Quality Hill area.

Read more about STA’s history

Read more about CSJ’s history.

Students play a key role in the Office of Campus Ministry. Our student ministers strive to keep Christ at the center of their lives and create opportunities for others to go deeper in their faith by leading programs and retreats, and by taking a leadership role in other faith-based initiatives. At STA, students can become involved in faith and ministry the following ways:

  • Student ministers
  • Liturgical ministry leaders
  • Campus Ministry interns
  • Daily prayer video production
  • Retreat planning
  • Student group leaders
  • Clubs and extracurricular activities

Students in Mass

Service Trips

From the very beginning of the Sisters of St Joseph, service to others has been at the heart of the order. As a Sisters of St Joseph School, STA offers students the opportunity to go on a service trip every year during spring break. These trips take students to a new place, open their eyes to the needs of our world, and ask them to examine how God calls them to respond to those needs, just as the Sisters of St Joseph have always done. STA students have made service trips to Guatemala, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Peru.

Class Retreats

Each class attends a one-day retreat annually. Class retreats gives students the opportunity to examine how they are doing individually and how they are impacting one another as a class community. Retreat days allow for honesty and openness that bring classes closer as a group.

Kairos Retreat

Kairos is an optional three-day retreat for juniors led by seniors. Student participants hear talks from student leaders and share their stories in small groups, all the while growing in their understanding of who God is in their lives. Kairos is a transformational faith experience for many students.

STA’s campus-wide Faith Formation program strengthens the understanding and embracing of Catholicism by those who teach, influence and guide students. The goal of the program is to integrate newly hired employees into STA’s Catholic faith community.

This program spans the first three years of an individual’s employment at STA. It includes Sharing of the Heart practices, instruction on the CSJ charisms and approach to interpreting the Bible, and other faith-based components. The first year of the program consists of structured monthly meetings, while years two and three consist of quarterly meetings, with programming based on individual interests and passions.

Saint Joseph Educational Ministries

The Sisters of St. Joseph have been passionate about education since their arrival in the U.S. in 1836. As founders of the St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf in 1837, their original mission was to teach. Today, their teaching ministry includes St. Teresa’s Academy, St. Joseph’s Academy, Avila University and Fontbonne University.

In 2020, the CSJ announced the transition of sponsorship of their five educational institutions to the newly established St. Joseph Educational Ministries (SJEM) in perpetuity. SJEM is a ministerial public juridic person charged with retaining the Catholic identity and CSJ spirituality in perpetuity at the schools. 

The CSJs are taking a proactive stance as responsible stewards to establish a structure that will ensure the schools remain Catholic and true to CSJ values. The sisters believe a ministerial public juridic person is the next step in the evolution of the Catholic education, as the laity already are serving as leaders to ensure the CSJ mission and Catholic identity remain on their campuses.

The sisters will remain active and present at the schools, continuing to serve as board members, employees, volunteers and prayer partners. They also will serve as members of SJEM and will lead the educational formation program for SJEM members.

SJEM has been approved by the Vatican. The schools will remain Catholic institutions as defined by the church and will maintain a nonprofit status.

CSJ Associates Program

CSJ Associates (CSJA) are lay individuals, primarily Catholic, who seek a deeper relationship with the Sisters of St. Joseph. CSJA candidates participate in a formal orientation process which generally takes place over a one-year period of time where they learn about CSJ identity, history and charism. Associates share in the faith community, ministry, prayer and celebrations of the sisters.

Associates are challenged to deepen their spiritual lives while continuing with their daily lives as spouses, parents, professionals, caregivers and retirees. They are encouraged to become involved in ministry with CSJs to love and serve the dear neighbor without distinction in a variety of ways, which include: prison ministry, healthcare, serving as mentors for adolescents, serving those in homeless shelters, caring for the elderly and more.