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Copyright©2008. Congregation of Saint Joseph.

Our History

The story of the Sisters of St. Joseph in LaGrange began with Mother Stanislaus Leary, who was general superior of the Concordia (Kansas) foundation until 1899, when her health began to fail. Sister Alexine Gosselin and a few sisters accompanied Mother Stanislaus in the spring that year to find medical help from doctors in Chicago. They recommended that Mother Stanislaus stay for the climate and medical care.

Father James Hagan, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in LaGrange, invited the sisters to come to that suburb. They arrived and rented a house there in October. Sadly, Mother Stanislaus’ health deteriorated and she died February 14, 1900.


Four months later, Archbishop Feehan of Chicago named Sister Alexine her successor. As Mother Alexine, she faced the daunting task of shepherding a new congregation whose financial resources totaled 33 cents.

Mother Alexine gratefully accepted contributions from parishioners to open a school for girls, grades 1-12. She rented a house large enough to accommodate both students and sisters. Classes began in September 1900 with 14 students, six of whom were residents. They paid $10 per month. The eight-day students paid 50 cents. From the beginning, the school offered a comprehensive Christian education based on sciences and letters, with an emphasis on art and music.

By 1912, there were 80 Sisters in the Congregation. Responding to an invitation from Bishop Thomas Grace, Mother Bernard Gosselin, Mother Alexine’s own sister, left with a number of sisters to found a community in California that now is known as the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, who established thriving ministries in education and health care.

Following WWI and WWII, the congregation prospered and fulfilled requests from parishes to staff their schools. By 1960 the Sisters’ education ministry served more than 14,000 elementary and high school students.

Although the 1960s began prosperously for the congregation, religious vocations began a significant decline in the latter half of the decade and declining numbers of sisters in the congregation. The Sisters responded to the times with creativity, flexibility and renewal. It began researching the concept of associate members and responded to a new call to the ministry of justice.

During the 1980s, the sisters began to look at what it means to be a woman religious at the end of the 20th century. Responding to the needs of immigrants moving into local communities, they founded School on Wheels, a mobile adult English literacy program.  They opened Allium, an eco-spirituality center, and, in a desire to extend their mission of unity to laywomen, the congregation established The Well – a spirituality center for women from the local communities to learn about their unity with God, with one another and with all creation. The sisters continued to teach in universities, parish and public schools, on Indian reservations and in mission areas.

Some of the sisters began serving as pastoral associates, chaplains, and retreat and spiritual directors. The Congregation began to recognize the need to be more global and understanding of the issues of alienation caused by poverty. They protested guerilla training at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, and many participated in interdenominational projects such as providing housing for refugee families from Bosnia, Vietnam and Yugoslavia.

As the calendar turned to a new millennium, the Sisters, now in LaGrange Park, were beginning discussions with other independent Sisters of St. Joseph congregations on ways to collaborate for the sake of their mission of unity. In December 2005 and January 2006, members of seven congregations voted to form and become one: The Congregation of St. Joseph, officially established with the Vatican on St. Joseph Day, March 19, 2007.

While at one time most of our sisters served in education, today our ministries are as varied as our members themselves. Using our diverse talents and gifts, we respond to the needs of the world, serving as educators, nurses, social workers, spiritual directors, and parish and hospital chaplains, touching the lives of more than 20,000 children and adults annually. Each day we have the opportunity to make a difference.   

 Administration building and residence

Nazareth Academy

Ministries We Founded:

Nazareth Academy
The Well
School and Tutors on Wheels
Ministry of the Arts
St. Joseph Press
Christ in the Wilderness
Other Resources:

Local News
Peace & Justice

Contact Us:

Make a Gift – Mission Advancement Office, 1515 West Ogden Avenue, LaGrange Park, Illinois 60526; 708.482.5037. or email Pat Milenius at pmilenius@csjoseph.org

Contact Us – Ministry Center, 1515 West Ogden Avenue, LaGrange Park, Illinois 60526; 708.354.9200. or email InfoLaGrange@csjoseph.org