Sisters of Saint Joseph of Annecy

Dear Sisters
This year we have chosen St. Joseph to be our Saint Protector for 2024. At a time when we were holding our 2nd EGC in The Gambia, and preparing for our General Chapter in 2025 , it seems fitting that we would have our patron to watch over us and protect us. In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the protector. He was first of all the protector of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).
How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with a deep sense of presence and absolute fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his engagement to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the husband of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and what it meant to be a refugee, to the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? How does Joseph respond to being the protector of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asks of a protector to be faithful to His word, His plan. It is God himself who builds the house. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason, he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his protection. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of our Christian vocation which is Christ.
Do we protect Christ in our lives? Do we watch out for and protect others we live with or are responsible for? Do we watch out for and protect this planet that we live on and are responsible for? Being a protector means protecting the beauty of the created world as we read in the book of Genesis and as we are encouraged by St. Francis of Assisi. It means respecting God’s creatures and the environment in which we live.

How do we follow the example of Joseph in the way we treat other human beings? Do we show loving concern for each and every person we either live with or come in contact with? What about children and those who are elderly or sick? Are they protected by us? Being a protector also means caring about our family both natural and religious. Husbands and wives generally protect each other and then they, as parents protect and watch out for their children. Equally for us living in community we watch out for and protect each other. It means building up friendships where we can trust, respect and protect the goodness of those we are privileged to live with. Just as God entrusted everything to Joseph’s protection so we too are entrusted to watch over and protect all that has been given to us. We are responsible for it all as we are called to be protectors of Gods gifts.
When we fail to live up to our responsibility to protect others, when we fail to care for creation and treat others with respect, our hearts are hardened, and we are opening the way to destruction. Sadly, in every period of history there have been “ Herod” type characters who cause havoc, plot death and cause harm to the good name of others.
Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the centre of our good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! Let us like Joseph, look to building up rather than tearing down. Let us not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness! In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. This is our Charism.

To protect Jesus and Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is what we are asking of Joseph this year when we ask him to be our Saint Protector. Let us too take responsibility for what we need to protect and to reach out in Love and compassion to the other. We are invited to be inspired by the lowly and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, we must open our arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace them with tender affection, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison ( Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!
May St. Joseph, on this special feast of our Congregation, watch over each of us and protect us.
With every blessing and prayer,
Sr. Breda