Interview with Sr. Patricia Cushing, SJW: Year of Consecrated Life

Interview graphicI was thrilled when I heard from Sister Patricia that she was going to participate in this interview series for the Year of Consecrated Life. I don’t know Sr. Patricia personally, but I have met several of the other sisters in her order.I happen to live very close to the nursing facility they operate in Versailles, KY and try to get out there whenever I can to visit one of the residents that I know. So I have interacted with some of the sisters from the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker Community from Walton, KY and every single one has been joyful and spiritual. I have no doubt that Sr. Patricia is as well. And her interview and the pictures she sent me certainly are evident of a joyful and spiritual soul. I enjoyed reading her answers and I thought her answer to the question regarding advise for anyone considering a vocation was wonderful. Great advise for any vocation really. Read on to learn more about Sr. Patricia and her lovely community of sisters.

Sr. Patricia Jean Cushing, SJW

Sr. Patricia Jean Cushing, SJW

What is your name?

My name is Sister Patricia Jean Cushing, SJW.  

What is the name of your order and what is your order’s particular charism?

We are the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker. Our community was founded in 1974 after several years of turmoil in the Church due to differences in interpretation of the Vatican II documents regarding religious life. Our foundress, Mother Ellen, along with 18 Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, truly lived the Gospel Values when, for the second time, they left everything “for the sake of Christ.”

Our co-founder, Bishop Ackerman, Bishop of Covington, Kentucky at the time, welcomed them into his diocese with open arms in 1973. The Sisters believed and wanted to remain true to the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church. They wanted a scheduled prayer life most of all, periods of silence throughout the day, a local superior, factual poverty, ecclesial apostolates, and to wear a religious habit. The Sisters were approved by the Holy See on May 1, 1974.

Here we are seven months into the year 2015 after 40 grace-filled years and, although Mother Ellen and all the Sisters (except one) who helped found our community have departed this life for their eternal reward, we are still generously receiving God’s manifold graces. “Who could have possibly foreseen the formation of a new community in the Church!” said a Sister of Charity of Nazareth recently, “A different charism, but the same Lord!”

Our Sisters work in the apostolates of education and nursing. We have a school, St. Joseph Academy which educates 3 year olds through 8th grade, and an 82 bed, 3 level care, nursing home in Versailles, Kentucky. The interaction between the young and the wise allows us ample opportunities to spread the Gospel.  

We follow the rule of St. Vincent de Paul and our charism is upholding the teachings of the Magisterium through the witness of our lives in simplicity, self-sacrifice, and charity.

How did you know God was calling you to this life?

I was taught by the Benedictine Sisters of Atchison, Kansas in elementary school. I remember my second grade teacher telling us that when we receive Holy Communion, since this is the most intimate time with Jesus, we were to ask Him what He wanted us to be when we grew up. At the early age of second grade I wanted to be a sister and asked if that was what He wanted me to be. In high school, I was taught by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, and I attended a Jesuit college for two years before entering the convent so I grew up with priests and religious sisters all my life and was inspired by their lives.

In 1972, our pastor took the Sodality out of state to visit a community of sisters and ‘live the life of a nun’ for about a week. In 1976, we went to the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia and there met a group of sisters who in turn invited our group up the following year. But as Providence would have it, Msgr. had lost the information. So being the president at the time called all the girls in the Sodality and asked them if they had a blue postcard from a community in Kentucky in their stash of fliers. No, was the unanimous response.

Sr. Patricia (the 2nd oldest of 8, with her younger brother, Fr. Matthew, the baby of the family.

Sr. Patricia (the 2nd oldest of 8) with her younger brother, Fr. Matthew, the baby of the family.

My mom and dad took the Twin Catholic newspaper in the home along with the diocesan paper and being adventurous I wrote to three communities that I found from Kentucky and California for we did know that much about them.

The only response I received was from a community in Kentucky who told me that they had not been to the Eucharistic Congress but that we were certainly invited to visit them. And so that is what we did the following year. We visited the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker. In 1978, I returned for a two week visit by myself and was received into the community on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15, 1978.

I still have Mother Ellen’s letter to me from long ago. Her first sentence was, “I believe that this is more Providential than coincidental!”

After being around religious women all my life as I said, I found myself not entering any of those communities but coming to a community that had just received approval from Rome four years earlier. God has a plan for each person and He takes you by the hand and patiently walks you to where He wants you to be.

Tell us a bit about what your day-to-day life is like.

Putting in some manual labor for the community.

Putting in some manual labor for the community.

Our constitutions state: “Prayer is our life -the irreplaceable means by which we come to a better understanding of our dignity as daughters of the Church and spouses of Christ.” Our daily prayer therefore includes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, 1/2 hour meditation, 1/2 hour Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, community rosary, and 2 hours of spiritual reading weekly.

If you are a school sister, prayer is essential before the days activities so self-rising between 4:30 – 5:00 a.m. is quite normal. Community morning prayer is 6:30 a.m. so a sister has plenty of time for a Holy Hour and breakfast before leaving for school. Daily Holy Mass is with the school children at 8:00 a.m. For those not in the teaching apostolate, lunch, followed by day-time prayer, is around 11:30 a.m.  

The school sisters return to the Motherhouse around 4:00. The community gathers for evening prayer and rosary at 4:30. This is followed by our supper. At 7:00 five of the seven days of the week we gather for recreation. Cards, board games, or even corn hole are played together. Some sisters quilt or crochet.

Night Prayer follows recreation and then the sisters can retire to their rooms for study, preparation for the next days lessons or retire.

The Sisters at our nursing home follow the same prayer schedule and community activities but at different times due to their care of the elderly in the home.  

What advice would you give to someone considering a consecrated religious life?

Ask, trust, stop, listen, and respond

The Sisters sharing the joy of their vocation.

The Sisters sharing the joy of their vocation.

Ask what makes you come alive; Trust the opportunities life and God are offering through the events and people He is sending into your life; Stop and be quite at intervals in your daily life; Listen, shut off your technology so you can hear your heart. Finally, Respond. The last command of Jesus to His disciples is Go! So go and see! Visit communities. Talk with them, smell the smells of the convent, listen to the sisters silence, pray with the sisters, volunteer with the sisters.    

What does it mean to you that Pope Francis has dedicated this year (Nov. 30, 2014-February 2, 2016) as a Year of Consecrated Life?

What a great blessing for the Church!

What is your favorite thing to do during your down time/recreation time?

I like to quilt and play Chinese checkers.

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