In the midst of this Year of St. Joseph, Sr. Marie-Joe Palabe, in community at the Motherhouse of the Daughters of Jesus, tells us about her personal witness to the Saint. Her devoted work spans several decades.
The celebrations of the 19th of March and the 1st of May 2021 at the Mother House in Kermaria were yet more victims of the pandemic. This year, we did not see the habitual crowd of Sisters and lay people invoking Saint Joseph of Kermaria with love and confidence. At the same time, we know well known that the protection and presence of the Saint are not reserved for the great feast days. The Sisters in community in Kermaria live it all year round.
I went with Sr Agnès to meet one of the Sisters, Marie Joe Palabe, to interview her about the place of St Joseph in her own life and in that of the Congregation. Now 87 years old, she has carefully assembled her testimony in a large binder that spans several decades. She herself doesn’t know how many pages it contains, but it’s heavy enough for her to have to transport it in the basket of her stroller!
One short question about how the collection began with the answer …
“I started it for myself because I loved Saint Joseph. ” …
and we were off on a long and fascinating conversation. Here are just a few extracts!
A devotion that began when she was young
(While showing us a photo of the chapel as it used to be some time ago)
Rhona: “Your baptismal name was actually Marie-Joséphine, so you were already halfway there! “
Marie-Joe : “Yes, I was already there, but even though my mother was very religious at home, she didn’t make me pray to Saint Joseph more than that. My devotion came from the Sister and the statue. This is a photo of the chapel in Kermaria as it was when I came to the Juniorate.
It was in 1947 … With the memories I have of my childhood, when I came to see Kermaria. I was a bit nervous about saying yes or no, I was making up my mind. I was 14, not young but not very resourceful either.
When we opened the door at the back of the chapel, I saw Saint Joseph and I said, “Oh, you’re here too, oh, it will be all right. “I can still see myself saying that. They talked a lot about St. Joseph in Kermaria. “
(While speaking about a prayer card printed after the death of a Sister)
M.J. “And this is a Sister who died a long time ago, Sister Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity. She made a great impression on me. She died at the age of 34. There were five religious in the family. At the beginning, I attended the public school at home and I used to shout after the others, those at the Catholic school. One day, the Rector wasn’t available to teach catechism. He said to us, “You will go to the school.” I didn’t want to go, but I said to myself, “You have to go. “And when I got to the courtyard, oh, the Sister welcomed me. And as I saw her in front of me, I saw the statue of Saint Joseph in the courtyard. And after that, my devotion continued on its own. “
When Miss “unresourceful” got her own way
(On asking her to tell us about an occasion when she prayed for something special)
M.J. ” For our future name in religion, the Congregation asked the postulants to propose three names. I didn’t want to take the name ‘Elizabeth of the Trinty’ in spite of my affection for and my gratitude towards the Sister who had welcomed me so well and followed me at school I knew she was now interceding for me from heaven but I had already chosen the name I would like in honour of Saint Joseph.
There were so many Sisters who wanted to put themselves under the protection of our patron saint that they put Mary Joseph –, or – Joseph -. Our novice mistress said to me, “For St. Joseph, it’s impossible, there are simply too many.” Her assistant found the General Secretary who imposed other names on me which I refused. So she said, really annoyed, “Go and see Mother General! “
The Mother General at this time was Mother Saint Thomas D’Aquin. Mother General welcomed me wholeheartedly and I spoke to her about my predilection for Saint Joseph. She said to me, “My little Sister, put down what you wish, you can have St. Joseph as your patron. “
And so it was, on the day I took the habit, the Bishop of Vannes said to me, “From now on you will be called ‘Sister Joseph-Marie‘. I thanked Saint Joseph, to whom I had prayed fervently. I was sure that from then on he would take me under his protection.”
« Saint Joseph the healer »
M.J. “I must tell you about this too – it was the feast day of the patronage of St. Joseph, in April 1951. I was a postulant. As we were leaving the chapel to go to the refectory, our Novice mistress, Mother Blandine, took me aside. I can still see her doing it. “You love Saint Joseph, don’t you?” “Oh yes, Mother, above everything.” “Well, come and see if it’s true. While there’s no one around, follow Sister Sacristan, and put this note in the hand of St. Joseph, up there, above the choir. Ask him for the cure of Sister Mary, a novice who is very sick. “
Perched up there, me in awe, “St. Joseph, you know I truly love you and I know that you love me too. So please, at Mother Mistress’ request, heal Sister Marie. “
The doctor had come urgently and had noted the seriousness of the illness. He had done what was necessary to relieve the patient, but he was pessimistic while assuring us that he would come in the evening. That very evening she began to improve and got better over the days that followed. Sister Marie was able to continue her novitiate training and, after taking her vows, continued her mission in the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus. “
Saint Joseph who sustains
(In the binder Marie-Joe has memories of Saint Joseph from every house where she has been in community.)
Click here: visite de Saint Joseph
to listen to Sr Marie-Joe
speak (in French) of a
rather mysterious visitor
to the community.
“What I like the most about Saint Joseph…”
(On asking her what aspect of Saint Joseph she likes the most)
M.J. “Oh, his humility. He never boasted about being the spouse of the Blessed Virgin, or the father of Jesus. He was hardworking, courageous. I admire the way he accepts all the prayers that are offered to him, from everyone … the destitute, the old, the poor. He is there listening and answering … but not too much. We can ask him for things but he does it in his own way. “
The Popes and Saint Joseph
(Sr Marie-Joe has material on what the Popes have said about Saint Joseph)
R. “Right up to the present Pope ? “
M.J. ” The present Pope, when he spoke on the 19th March, when he was enthroned, I thought it was good. So, what did I do? I wrote to him to thank him and he replied. Well, not him, but his secretary wrote back. He sent me a picture.
This is the letter. I didn’t expect to receive an answer, not at all. I heard by chance that a brother from Ploërmel was proposing a pilgrimage to Rome. He was going for the cause of their patron saint, Jean-Marie de La Mennais and I said to him, “Oh, I want to send a present to the Pope“. I bought a little statue of St. Joseph, a card of St. Joseph, and I put them in a box, all nicely wrapped up. In return, I got this.”
Show us your goodness
M.J. “And here is a prayer to Saint Joseph that I like to say. It’s a new one for the Year of Saint Joseph. I especially the last three lines :
My beloved father,
all my trust is in you.
Let it not be said
that I invoked you in vain,
and since you can do everything
with Jesus and Mary,
show me that your goodness
is as great as your power.
Rhona and Agnès : A big thank you to Sr Marie-Joe for this beautiful testimony to St Joseph, our patron saint. May he continue to accompany all the Daughters of Jesus in this special year and guide us along the paths of life in this difficult time.
Srs Rhona Burns and Agnès Miquel djs