By G. Michael Dobbs
HOLYOKE – Much has been accomplished to assist the Sisters of Saint Joseph (SSJ) of Springfield in funding the order’s retirement fund, but more needs to be done.
Parishioners throughout the Springfield Diocese contributed $625,000 in a special collection last November, the order recently announced, but as President Sister Maxyne Schneider told Reminder Publications, the order is planning in about a year to launch a major campaign to raise more money.
Schneider said of the special collection, “We are truly overwhelmed and deeply grateful to all of you for your generous response.”
The special gifts campaign, as Schneider described it, could only be used for two purposes: carrying on the mission of the order and the care of the sisters.
Considering the 242-member order has an average age of 75, Schneider said that retirement concerns are important.
Unlike Bishop Timothy McDonnell who has a mandatory retirement age of 75 – he has petitioned the Vatican for his replacement – Schneider said the sisters do not have to cease working at a particular age.
“That’s a good thing,” she said, adding there are members of the order still working and contributing to the SSJ into their 80s.
She said that many members, who do not have the stamina for paid work are volunteering in jails, councils on aging, schools and parishes throughout the area.
The most expensive time for the care of the sisters is the period after they stop working, but before they require care such as a nursing home, Schneider said.
The special gifts campaign is not the only step the order is planning to undertake. Schneider said there have been reductions in its operating budget and additional cuts will be made.
She explained the order is also considering how it can leverage property at Mont Marie. The efforts to convert part of the property to a nursing home open to the public and to use even more for a senior housing center “have earned money for us,” Schneider said. The order is now thinking that having additional senior housing may be the best plan, she added.
“We’ve been working very hard and we think we’re very close [to a decision],” she said.
Schneider noted that SSJ has been part of the Hampden County since 1883 when the pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Chicopee asked members of the order in New York to come assist him in the founding of a parish school. The sisters founded a school on the site of Elms College in 1897 that eventually grew into a four-year college in 1928.
Schneider said with pride the college recently celebrated its 85th anniversary and is “far stronger than it has ever been.”
If people wish to make a donation to the SSJ, Schneider said that by going to the order’s website (www.ssjspringfield.org
) one can either make a donation online through credit card or Paypal or by sending a check to the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Springfield, Mont Marie, 34 Lower Westfield Road, Holyoke, MA, 01040-2739.
“For the past 130 years we have been honored to serve the people of the Springfield Diocese and we are truly grateful to receive their outpouring of generosity toward us,” Schneider said.