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Bridges, March 11, 2022

ADIOS Y GRACIAS. . . FAREWELL TO JOAN OF ARC RESIDENCE - San Diego, CA

Eighty-four years of presence and hospitality is no small accomplishment. For the Religious of Jesus and Mary of the United States, Joan of Arc Residence in San Diego has been a beacon and home offered to thousands of women. This past week, Sr. Margaret Perron announced that the province will close this ministry, having secured a buyer for the property. A familiar but painful experience marks this termination of an era for the province, and invites us into a new future unfolding.

On January 31, 1938, Bishop Charles Buddy welcomed the RJM to his new diocese. They were the first congregation of sisters to make a foundation there, and he promised them his prayer, help, and support. He wanted them to open a residence for working women like the one they had begun in El Paso, Texas. Boarding a night train in El Paso to make the 725-mile journey to San Diego, M. Dulce Nombre Reventós and M. Guadalupe Maria Perez, Spanish foundresses of the El Paso mission, arrived the next day. Until 1939, the Mexican mission was part of the province of Spain, and most sisters were Spanish-born.

The intrepid pair spent over three months lodging with the Sisters of Mercy while they sought a suitable property. With the bishop’s help, and three temporary “homes” later, the small community finally moved to the new, two-story Joan of Arc “Club” at its present site in January, 1941. At its blessing, the bishop told the sisters to “watch it grow.”

And grow it did, serving as an affordable home to thousands of working women who have felt safe and welcome there for eight decades. The sisters’ presence, prayer, friendship and spiritual support have been at the heart of the RJM ministry to these women. From its hub, pastoral ministry, education, and assistance to refugees and migrants, have expanded.

Intersecting with the history of five RJM provinces, surrendering this dearly-loved home is painful and difficult. Its unique ministry has reflected the warmth and beauty of southern California and the deep faith of its Latina forbears. We all feel the loss this change means for many RJM, but especially for the five sisters who have been so important to the residence in recent years. We send them and their residents our prayer and love. As Sr. Margaret wrote, while this is the conclusion of yet another corporate province ministry, “it is also an opportunity to respond to other needs.” And those needs will require the same determination and faith that marked Joan of Arc’s beginnings. We are confident that God will be with each one as we step into another tomorrow.

At the end of the Oscar-nominated animated film, “Encanto,” the matriarch sings to her family about their past and new future. Like caterpillars and butterflies, they will learn that new wonders emerge from letting go of a treasured past. Her words seem a fitting “farewell and fare forward” to our dear Joan of Arc:

Vienen Milagros, vienen crisálidades . . . . hay que partir y construer su propio futuro; Ya son milagros, rompiendo crisálidades . . . Hay que volar, hay que encontrar, su propio future.”

“Wonders await you. . . trust they’ll be there; and start to prepare the way for tomorrow; Don’t look behind you. . . Fly till you find your way toward tomorrow.” Dos Oruguitas/Two Caterpillars

- Sr. Janice Farnham, RJM

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