Sisters of St. Joseph take charism to the classrooms

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Sisters of St. Joseph take charism to the classrooms

Sister of St. Joseph Pat Bergen engages with sophomores in an honors chemistry class at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park on March 22, 2020. In honor of the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19, the school returned to its tradition of welcoming sisters and associates from the Congregation of St. Joseph as guest lecturers in a variety of classrooms. The lectures focused on "Laudato Si'" and its connection to the congregation's charism. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Sister Pat begins her presentation with the theme "We all are one." (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students laugh as Sister Pat engages with them. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Now that COVID-19 restrictions have lifted, the Sisters of St. Joseph, who founded Nazareth Academy in La Grange Park in 1900, have returned to the classrooms.

“Around St. Joseph’s Day (March 19) each year, we, the Sisters of St. Joseph, teach classes here at Nazareth because there aren’t many of us still teaching in the building,” said Sister of St. Joseph Pat Bergen, a 1963 graduate of Nazareth. “The classes have something to do with our mission and charism, which is the reason the school was set up.”

That mission is unity. Bergen spoke to freshmen, sophomores and seniors in chemistry, physics and world history on the topic of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’” and relating it to the mission.

All of the sisters and associates focused on the same topic.

Bergen is an animated speaker and greeted the sophomores in an honors chemistry class on March 22 singing “We Are One.” She then spoke about the interconnection of all people around the world. Then she worked it into the themes of “Laudato Si’” and care of creation.

“We are always eager to take any experience that we can to partner with the sisters and to bring them into our schools so that our students know who they are and see their passion for the mission and the charism,” said Therese Hawkins, principal of Nazareth Academy.

Hawkins said she was happy the focus was on “Laudato Si’” so the students could be exposed to the themes of the encyclical.

“Young people are very attuned to the challenges of the environment,” she said. “This is something they are aware of, that they worry about and that they feel called to action on.”

The school is also committed to care of creation. For example, Hawkins, Sister Pat and the school’s environmental club collaborated on instituting a meatless day in the cafeteria to help educate students and staff about the higher carbon footprint that comes from meat production over vegetable or grain production.

“What I think this group did a great job with was showing the impact that just one meal, one day a week, if you choose to go meatless, can have on the environment,” Hawkins said. “It’s huge.”

Next, the students are surveying students of color about some vegetarian dishes from their traditions that can be included in the meatless offerings.

The Sisters of St. Joseph are supporting the students in their efforts and have accepted a challenge to incorporate meatless days into their own meals, Bergen said.

“Laudato Si’” is important to the Congregation of St. Joseph and they have signed on to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a Vatican-sponsored effort facilitated by the Laudato Si’ Movement (formerly Global Catholic Climate Movement) to achieve sweeping environmental sustainability.


  • nazareth academy
  • sisters of st. joseph

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