December 5, 2017

Sister Joan Ryzewicz, SSJ president, is speaker at First Friday Prayer Breakfast

Story and photos by Gregg Thompson

Sister Joan Ryzewicz, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, speaks at the Dec. 1 First Friday Prayer Breakfast at the Bishop Marshall Center in Springfield.


SPRINGFIELD – Sister of St. Joseph Joan Ryzewicz, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield (SSJs), was the guest speaker at the First Friday Prayer Breakfast held on Dec. 1 at the Bishop Marshall Center, here.

The prayer breakfast began with 7:30 a.m. Mass in the Holy Spirit Chapel of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield. The Mass was presided over by Msgr. Christopher Connelly, cathedral rector, and was offered in memory of West Springfield physician Dr. Cyril Shea,a longtime pro-life activist in the Greater Springfield Area. It included a reading from the Book of Daniel, the Novena to the Sacred Heart and musical accompaniment by Doris Poirier. About 35 people attended.

The Mass was followed by a continental breakfast in the Bishop Marshall Center, during which Danish pastries, orange juice and coffee were served, and then the talk by Sister Ryzewicz.

“I’d like to ask you two questions,” she said to the attendees. “How do you know the Sisters of St. Joseph? And is there an image of a Sister of St. Joseph that comes to mind?”

Worshipers attend Mass in the Holy Spirit Chapel before the Dec. 1 First Friday Prayer Breakfast .

After schooling by the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sister Ryzewicz joined the order in 1966. “They passed on values, charism and traditions,” she said. “We went through some difficult financial times. We’re now relatively stable because so many of you stepped up to the plate.”

Along with the collections and contributions from many generous benefactors, the congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield received a $319,452 grant in June from the National Religious Retirement Office’s National Retirement Collection. 

Before the SSJs’ own  “Support the Sisters” campaign began in 2015 (and ended this summer with $8 million raised), Sister Ryzewicz noted that her community struggled financially for years and worried about how they could best care for their aging and elderly members, who had taught in diocesan schools without salaries for decades.

The congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield presently has 193 members, 172 of whom are over age 70. About 66 percent of the community are retired members, 17 percent are employed full-time and about 13 percent are employed part-time.

“Since the sale of our Mont Marie Motherhouse in Holyoke,” Sister Ryzewicz said, “we have made wonderful connections with the CSJ’s in Boston, who have extended hospitality to our sisters now living in two other facilities, Bethany Health Care Center in Framingham and Fontbonne Convent in Milton. 

“Though distance is a challenge, we are learning new ways of being present to one another as a community,” Sister Ryzewicz said. 

“More recently, the Daughters of the Heart of Mary in Holyoke have likewise offered hospitality and our sisters have taken up residence at the Marian Center in Holyoke,” she said. “Uniting neighbor with neighbor and building relationships continue to be an important part of who we are.”

“If you take nothing else away from all this,” Sister Ryzewicz concluded, “take the gratitude we feel for you.”