Curator: Elizabeth Rechtien
As a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Fontbonne University is rooted in Catholic values, mission, and ideals. Members of the Fontbonne community constantly fulfill the call of the CSJs to serve the dear neighbor without distinction. We help one another achieve all of which we are capable. We are hospitable, accepting, compassionate, and respectful. The heritage of the CSJs is an essential part of the Fontbonne identity. The artifacts in this mini-exhibit provide a glimpse into how Fontbonne has chosen to honor and remember its CSJ heritage over the years.
When Fontbonne was founded, the presence of the CSJs was seen and felt prominently on campus and during events. Many of the professors, administrators, and campus personnel were Sisters of St. Joseph. Over time, however, the presence of Sisters on campus has dwindled and the demographics of our student body has changed. As a result, the CSJ heritage has fallen from the forefront of our campus identity and narrative. With the addition of male students, international students, and students of all religious and faith backgrounds, our campus culture has become more diverse. How do we make campus events inclusive for all students while still remaining true to our Catholic roots from the Sisters of St. Joseph? Many of our religiously-affiliated celebrations today are not as formal or elaborate as they once were, perhaps for fear of ostracizing or excluding non-Catholic members of our community. Engagement with campus events has decreased in many areas, but especially with those connected to faith, service, and the CSJs.
However, our recognition of the legacy of the CSJs still lives on at Fontbonne in many ways. It is subtly seen in interactions between students and professors, support among teammates and coaches, opportunities for leadership development, and a commitment to a transformative liberal arts education for all students. While the presence of the Sisters has faded and our campus traditions have changed, Fontbonne has yet to lose its sense of religious identity. It continues to inspire students, faculty, and staff each and every day.
This crown was given to one female student from the Senior Class at the annual May Queen Crowning Ceremony. Their names have been inscribed on the inside of the crown. This formal ceremony was held on May 1st, which is the Feast Day of St. Joseph. Complete with debutante-like ballgowns and large floral bouquets, similar events at other universities were the social event of the year. However, Fontbonne’s celebration was much more religious because of its connection to Mary, St. Joseph, and the CSJs.
On October 15th, Fontbonne holds their annual Founders’ Day celebration. This commemorates the founding of the Sisters of St. Joseph in France and celebrates Fontbonne as a ministry of the CSJs. Students would process through campus in their cap and gown, travel to the Mother House in Carondelet, and decorate their cars. This combination of religious, academic, and recreational activities was one of the biggest events of the year. Today, this anniversary is celebrated with free treats and a visit to campus from one of the Sisters acting as Mother St. John Fontbonne.
The Fontbonne-Carondelet Heritage Award is given to a Sister of St. Joseph whose work exemplifies the values of CSJ ministry and Fontbonne. This award has been given a total of four times since 1997. Each time, an endowment fund has been created in the recipient’s honor. This donation request form exemplifies how Fontbonne’s connection to the CSJs deems it a religious and academic institution worthy of investment. The endowment fund continues to support the growth of Fontbonne University, its students, and the values of the CSJs.
Since 2000, Catch the Fire has welcomed each freshman class into the mission and uniqueness of Fontbonne University. New students are educated on the heritage of the CSJs and called to live out the charism in all they do. While engagement with most other religious events on campus is voluntary, Catch the Fire is a mandated event for first-year students as part of freshman orientation. This guarantees that all students begin their collegiate experience with a firm sense of Fontbonne’s religious identity.
The Sisters of St. Joseph call everyone to serve the dear neighbor without distinction. In 2008, Fontbonne University began an annual day of service at various locations in the St. Louis area. Fontbonne Day was first held on May 1st to emphasize the feast of St. Joseph. However, changes in the academic calendar have resulted in a loss of this religious connection. Fontbonne Day is now held each April to avoid a conflict with finals. This water bottle was provided to the student, faculty, and staff volunteers in 2018 for the 10th Annual Fontbonne Day in gratitude for their service.