Celebrating Women’s History Month with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange


In this article:

  • This year’s Women’s History Month focuses on equity, diversity and inclusion.

  • Providence was founded in part by a group of visionary nuns committed to health care, education and social work.

  • The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange are continuing their mission to serve the health care needs of communities across the country and around the world.

Celebrating Women’s History Month with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange

March is Women’s History Month. This year the focus is on female contributions to equity, diversity and inclusion. The foundation of Providence was laid more than 100 years ago through the work of both the Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. The sisters of both orders had the vision and faith to imagine better health and education resources for their communities and their missions, both past and present, are rooted in education, health care and social work.

To highlight the contributions of these brave women and how they continue to support and meet the health care needs of people across seven states, we spoke with Sister Katherine Gray, facilitator for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange about the history of the order. She addresses how the sisters of the order continue to serve the Providence communities through their commitment to the ideals of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Q: How did the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange become involved in health care?

A: Our health ministry began during the flu epidemic of 1918 when the community desperately needed nursing services. During that time the sisters realized that a hospital would serve the health and spiritual needs of the people in Eureka, California.

But backing up to before that time, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange was established in 1912 by Mother Bernard Gosselin. She moved the sisters from LaGrange, Illinois, to Eureka, California. It didn’t take long for her to realize that there wasn’t much potential for growth there, and she moved the order to the city of Orange in Southern California in 1922. She had the courage, foresight and flexibility to see the benefits and potential of that move.

Q: How do the ideals of the order reflect the values of equity, inclusion and diversity?

A: The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange have a foundational conviction that everyone is a unique, unrepeatable recreation of God. We believe in our inherent unity, despite what seems to separate us. Underneath our differences we have a common humanity. To fulfill our mission of unity and equity, we have a focus on education, health care and social work.

Q: Can you tell us more about the role that inclusion plays in the order’s mission?
A: Inclusive love is at the heart of our mission. Through our presence and ministries, we aim to unite the communities we serve through the demonstration of God’s inclusive love. We strive to include the gifts, talents and insights of everyone.

Our constitution and its statements highlight our commitment to inclusion and collaboration. For many years our chapter statements have had a goal or direction toward inclusion and recognition. The statements are designed to formally recognize our goals and direction for the next five years.

Q: How important is diversity and equality to the order’s ministry?
A: Our most recent commitment statement includes a focus on dialogue and action that centers on intercultural living in addition to racism, diversity, equity and inclusion. We are called to ask are we living up to our vision? Who else needs to be invited to the table of discussion? What partnerships do we seek, and whose table might we join? How are we tending to diversity, equity and inclusion around the table? What is our creative response to foster equity and diversity?

Today we have a more diverse group of sisters than ever before. Their work and life experiences increase our awareness of the need for a diverse and multicultural perspective. We have an equity and diversity task force, and the result is a more inclusive group to direct our paths for the future.

Q: The order has a long history of serving diverse communities. How does that work continue today?

A: It’s been more than 122 years since the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange was founded. Our sisters have served across the United States and around the world in California, Texas, Minnesota, Peru, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Mexico.

We work to bring unity, affirmation and love to situations where it might not exist. According to our tradition we encourage and assist those who desire to follow Christ more closely, and we work to alleviate the conditions that cause ignorance, poverty, suffering and oppression.

Q: Is the order still committed to meeting the health and wellness needs of people around the world?

A: The sisters’ commitment to our healing mission comes through our established acute care hospitals, rehabilitation programs, home health care services, community education programs, primary care clinics and wellness programs. We also offer assistance beyond education and health care. That includes helping immigrants, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless and fostering spiritual development.

Contributing caregiver

Sister Katherine Gray is facilitator/presenter, Center for Spiritual Development for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council is leading efforts to raise cultural awareness and promote diversity to help build appreciation for cultural traditions. We are also starting conversations to help educate people about different cultures as a way to create a more welcoming, equitable and inclusive environment. We support diversity education and awareness initiatives, thus deepening our ability to provide compassionate care and honor human dignity.

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