Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet - Carondelet Center - 11999 Chalon Road - Los Angeles, CA 90049  310.889.2100

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Part 1: A visit to Familia de San Jose (Chile)

The history of the Chilean city of Talca has been deeply shaped by the influence of many Catholic congregations and individuals, including the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet who following an invitation from the local Bishop, best known as Don Carlos, first arrived there in 1987. Their mission was to live in a poor neighborhood to protect people from the oppression of the military regime lead by General Augusto Pinochet. Eventually, the Sisters were invited to join a group of teachers preparing catechism classes, groups of women who cooked lunch everyday to feed the poor and began serving the dear neighbor wherever they were needed.

Part 1: A visit to Familia de San Jose (Chile)

Talca is a Chilean city located about 158 miles south of Santiago, the country’s capital. The city is an important economic center, with agricultural and manufacturing activities, as well as wine production. Talca’s history has been deeply shaped by the influence of many Catholic congregations and individuals, including the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet who following an invitation from the Bishop of Talca, best known as Don Carlos, first arrived there in 1987. Their mission was to live in a poor neighborhood to protect people from the oppression of the military regime lead by General Augusto Pinochet. The Bishop also asked the Sisters to help people recover hope and to discover their own talents. The CSJ’s, Sisters Margaret O’Rourke (Los Angeles), Marie Loyola (St. Paul), Rose Haley (St. Paul) and Helene Eileen Smits (St. Louis) opened the first CSJ mission in an area called Carlos Trupp, a fairly new development just outside the city.

Because of the US involvement in the military coup of 1973, it took them some time to gain the trust and respect of the locals. Eventually, the Sisters were invited to join a group of teachers preparing catechism classes, groups of women who cooked lunch everyday to feed the needy, accompany maids on their half days off work and Sister Rosemary, who was a nurse, began visiting the homes of the sick because there was no clinic nor a hospital in the area. She soon formed a team and helped them to “serve the dear neighbor” by taking blood pressure, curing wounds, advising about nutrition, etc.

The following year, Sisters Roseanne Belpedio (Los Angeles) and Mary Joseph Wilson (St. Paul) arrived in Curepto, a town located about two hours to the interior of Talca. Their arrival did much to bring about reconciliation in a place that suffered severe political divisions during the dictatorship. These Sisters began working with the catechesis team, they went out to the countryside communities, to a social justice group and to the youth group.

The Familia de San Jose consisting of two groups of Associates, was created twelve years later by women and men with whom the Sisters had shared a ministry in a variety of ways. Although three years have passed since the last Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet left Chile, a group of CSJ Associates, called Familia de San Jose, is thriving. Last October, Meyling Eliash-Daneshfar (Dir. Of Communications, Public Relations and Mission Advancement) visited Talca and sent these reflections.

 

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