Sisters of Saint Joseph of Orange

The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Orange is a Roman Catholic religious order for women.


The history of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange spans more than 350 years. The humble women of today often comment about standing on the shoulders of the sisters who came before them. This is a brief glimpse of their story.

The French Foundation: 1650, Le Puy

The congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph was begun around the year 1650 in small communities established in the area of Le Puy, France by women of whom we know little more than their names, and by a Jesuit priest, Jean-Pierre Medaille. Father Medaille had a unique idea about religious communities of women; different from others in his time. The place of sisters in the 17th century was usually in a cloistered convent, not our among the people. Father Medaille had a vision to go out into the city, divide up the neighborhoods, find out the needs and do your best to meet them, and find lay people who want to do good works with you.

The Sisters of St. Joseph began by helping the poor and sick in their homes, providing refuge for widows and orphans, teaching religious education and a trade to girls and young women, and shouldering the burden of social work in villages where there was often no one else to do it. As the Congregation spread throughout central France, the Sisters served in hospitals, schools and prisons, and even maintained a pharmacy. Response to needs characterized the service of these first Sisters of St. Joseph.

The French Revolution of 1789 radically affected the visible structures of religious congregations. Church property was confiscated and Sisters were forbidden to live in convents. The Sisters of St. Joseph were dispersed; some were imprisoned, some were guillotined, and others went into hiding.


Mother St. John Fontbonne, one of the sisters who had been imprisoned and scheduled for execution, reestablished the Congregation shortly after the end of the French Revolution. Spared the guillotine by the fall of Robespierre and released from prison, she, like other women who had been in the Congregation, continued to serve the needs of others while she lived with her family. In 1806, she reestablished the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Lyon, not far from the original foundation in Le Puy. Encouraged by Napoleon, bishops pressed formerly independent houses to unite in larger congregations governed by general superiors.

Missionary expansion was a chief product of the new centralization and the astonishingly active stamp of French Catholicism in the 19th century. By the century’s end, the Sisters of St. Joseph, previously confined to one section of France, were in the United States, Canada, India, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Iceland, Armenia, Algeria, Argentina and Brazil. Today, thousands of Sisters of St. Joseph serve on every continent.

The American Foundation: 1847

Mother St. John sent several sisters to the United States in 1836 to meet the needs of people in this country as they moved westward. The foundation was made at Carondelet near St. Louis, Missouri, and in 1847 it became an independent congregation. Establishing independent congregations as they moved to new areas became a pattern for the Sisters of St. Joseph, and eventually 25 independent groups were established in the United States and Canada from the original Carondelet foundation. Maintaining a common heritage, each one added a spirit unique to its own foundation.

The first ministries of the Sisters in the United States involved establishing a school for the deaf, working with Native Americans, establishing hospitals and orphanages during the Civil War, and teaching immigrants and African-Americans.

The California Foundation: 1912

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange is among the youngest of the American congregations and traces its roots through the St. Joseph congregations of La Grange, Illinois; Concordia, Kansas; Rochester, New York; and Carondelet, Missouri.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange were established in 1912 by Mother Bernard Gosselin. She and eight sisters left LaGrange, Illinois, near Chicago to establish a school in Eureka, California. When the Sisters first arrived, they had only 60 cents and only a promise of a temporary house, but even with such limited resources they were able to open a school within a few months of arrival. The Sisters were able to sustain themselves with the meager income the school provided by growing most of their own food, and by the generosity of the people of Eureka.

As the Congregation grew, the Sisters were better able to address more of the needs of the area. The 1918 flu epidemic presented a new challenge to the community. Although none of the members was trained in medicine, the Sisters knew that the people of the area needed practical nursing care as well as consolation and reconciliation in the presence of death. The Sisters responded as best they could at the time, but they realized that by establishing a hospital they could provide a health care service which would effectively address the personal, social and spiritual needs of the area. In 1920, the Sisters opened St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka.

By 1922, the Sisters were teaching in several Southern California areas and recognized that the community could better develop its ministries by moving the Motherhouse to Orange. The Congregation continued in the same spirit of charity, simplicity, and humility characteristic of the Sisters of St. Joseph throughout the world. Mother Bernard further encouraged the Sisters to respond to the needs of their neighbors with faith, foresight and flexibility.

The first ministries of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange were in education and health care. They experienced decades of effective service within a system characterized by centralized authority, limited personal choice of ministry, and structured ministerial activity. Schools and hospitals were staffed primarily by the Sisters and in the 1940s and 1950s the number of institutions directed by the Congregation increased steadily. In the 1940s the Sisters extended their work in health, education and religious instruction to the people of Papua New Guinea and Australia.

The 1960s radically challenged the environment. Rapid changes in every aspect of life brought disruption to the traditions of religious life as well as to those of the broader society. At the beginning of the 1960s Vatican II challenged religious congregations to renew and adapt their mission and way of life in order to respond to the changing needs of society and the Church. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange clarified their mission, broadened the scope of their ministries, and changed outdated structures and customs.

Today, the Congregation’s commitment to education is expressed in a variety of forms including elementary, secondary, university and other adult education. The commitment to extend the healing mission of Christ is expressed through acute care hospitals, rehabilitation programs, home health care, community education, primary care clinics, and wellness programs. The works of the Congregation have expanded, however, beyond education and health care to also include such things as helping new immigrants, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, and fostering spiritual development.

The Sisters are very aware that their ministry is greatly enhanced through fuller collaboration with their lay coworkers. They have developed clearer roles for the laity involved in their ministries and have asked them to be partners and leaders with them in their institutions.


The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange are a congregation of Catholic women who share a common foundation and mission with thousands of sisters in St. Joseph congregations throughout the world. The mission of all Sisters of St. Joseph is a participation in the mission of Jesus: to bring all people into union with God and with one another, serving them according to their needs and their own various gifts, in all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that may be within the power of the congregation.

The Sisters strive to be mindful of the diverse and unmet needs of the dear neighbor. They work together with people living in the neighborhoods they serve to help improve the well-being of the local community.


t. Joseph Health System of Humboldt County

[ St. Joseph Hospital] 2700 Dolbeer StreetEureka, California 95501(707) 445-8121

General Hospital Campus 2200 Harrison AvenueEureka, CA 95501(707) 445-5111

The first health care facility established by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange in 1920, St. Joseph Hospital is a full-service acute care facility with two campuses. We specialize in cancer treatment, heart care, emergency care, childbirth, and women's and pediatric services. We offer complete cardiac care in our Heart Institute including open heart surgery, cardiopulmonary services, and cardiac rehabilitation, as well as the latest cancer treatments and technologies in our fully accredited Cancer Program.

Some of the additional comprehensive services offered are: CT scan, MRI, Positron Emission Therapy (PET), PET-CT, IMRT, Digital Mammography, a Sleep Disorders Center and Medical Rehabilitation.

[ Redwood Memorial Hospital] 3300 Renner Drive
Fortuna, California 95540(707) 725-3361

Serving the Eel River Valley and the southern part of Humboldt County, Redwood Memorial Hospital fosters a healing and welcoming environment by taking a holistic, patient-centered approach to medicine. The patient is placed first in every interaction within their wide array of services, including a new state-of-the-art surgery wing, New Beginnings maternity center, women's and children's services, CT scanner, and emergency department with Board certified physicians. It has 35 licensed beds.

t. Joseph Health System of Sonoma County

[ Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital] 1165 Montgomery Drive
Santa Rosa, California 95405(707)546-3210

Opened in 1950, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital is a full-service acute inpatient and ambulatory care hospital and a medical referral center for the north coastal region of California. Memorial Hospital offers a full range of programs and services to improve health and quality of life of the communities we serve, including mobile, dental, and school-based clinics; self-care and wellness education; services to homebound frail elderly, non-ambulatory and chronically disabled persons; neighborhood organization and advocacy. Its growing continuum of care includes wellness education and library services, urgent care, outpatient cancer care, home care, and hospice. It has 345 licensed beds.

Petaluma Valley Hospital400 North McDowell Boulevard
Petaluma, California 94954

Petaluma Valley Hospital is a public, not-for-profit community hospital operated by SRM Alliance Hospital Services, a Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange Corporation. The 86-bed acute care facility, which was certified for a three-year term in March 1996 by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, also includes a home health agency and hospice. The 17-year-old facility features a host of medical specialties, including internal medicine, oncology, geriatrics, orthopedic surgery/obstetrics, and 24-hour emergency care. Petaluma Valley Home Health and Hospice of Petaluma offer multidisciplinary services that provide personalized, coordinated care to clients in the comfort of their own homes. The hospital joined the SJHS family in 1997 through a long-term lease agreement with the District.

outhern California Hospitals

[ St. Mary Medical Center] 18300 Highway 18
Apple Valley, California 92307

St. Mary Medical Center has offered a healing hand to the families of the High Desert community for over 40 years. Co-ministered by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange and the Brothers of St. John of God, St. Mary Medical Center is a 186-bed acute care facility offering comprehensive community health care, including cardiology, neonatal intensive care, home health care, and hospice. The facility also offers state-of-the-art rehabilitation services and a mobile health van that provides outreach services to the local community. It has 186 licensed beds.

Justice Ministry

Justice Center addresses unmet needs, both locally and globally, through consciousness raising, direct service and advocacy for systemic change, helping the poor, ending violence, providing affordable housing through coordination and facilitation of grassroots organizations and connecting groups and resources.

piritual Ministry

[ Center For Spiritual Development] provides both an environment and programs that nourish the spiritual lives of people of all faiths.


[ Taller San Jose] provides undereducated and unskilled young adults, ages 18-28, the opportunity to finish their education and develop the skills to find a job with a living wage.

Loyola Marymount University is a liberal arts university in Southern California.


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* [ St. Joseph Health System]

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