Joyce Bibey Photo
Sister Jennifer Berridge, CSJ, stands outside Mount St. Joseph in Wheeling, earlier this year.
By Colleen Rowan
Congregation of St. Joseph Sister Jennifer Berridge is preparing for her profession of first vows. This joyful moment in her life will be with the Catholic faithful of Wheeling at St. Vincent de Paul Parish July 25 during the 5 p.m. Mass.
“I’m really just humbled, honored, excited, and very grateful for this blessed time in my life that led me to this vocation,” she said.
During the Mass, an individual from the congregation’s leadership team will formally ask Sister Jennifer a series of questions, to which she will respond: “I do.” A candle will be lit from the flame of the paschal candle, she will profess vows, and she will then be presented with a new mentor to continue the journey of her vocation with her. Her mentor’s name has not yet been announced.
Sister Jennifer chose St. Vincent’s as the church at which she would make her profession of first vows after attending Mass there many times and really having enjoyed being with the people of the parish. Many of them, she said, came to hear her speak at a Serra Club gathering. She has gotten to know them as well as Msgr. Paul Hudock, pastor, and Father Joseph Wylie, associate pastor, she said.
“It just seemed like the perfect fit,” she said.
Msgr. Hudock said St. Vincent’s is honored to host this special Mass.
“Sister Jennifer has a heart of compassion for those in need of healing by God’s grace,” he said. “She also has found a spiritual home among the Congregation of St. Joseph. I pray Sister Jennifer may be blessed in her life in community, and also have the grace to offer fruitful service to God’s people.”
Originally from Solon, Ohio, near Cleveland, Sister Jennifer first made a connection with the Sisters of St. Joseph at her parish. And it was their warm, welcoming spirit and genuine care, love, and support for her family, she said, that drew her to them.
For Sister Jennifer, the last two years have been her novitiate period. The first part of this period is a canonical year. The second part is an apostolic year, which officially ended for Sister Jennifer on July 1.
“It’s a time that’s really meant for study and reflection and taking a deeper dive into community life and really asking yourself the questions of discernment,” she shared. This also took her to Rochester, N.Y., for 10 months.
Prior to her novitiate, Sister Jennifer spent two and a half years in candidacy.
“As a candidate, I moved into Mount St. Joseph,” she explained. “You begin life in community with the sisters, and you also maintain a ministry, a full-time position, so I worked at different jobs here, throughout Wheeling.” She spent time working at St. John’s Children’s Home and Crittenton Services, both in Wheeling.
After she professes her first vows this month at St. Vincent’s, her vocation journey continues.
“After first vows,” Sister Jennifer said, “I’ll go back into a ministry and then in three years, good Lord willing, will be final vows.”
In anticipation of Sister Jennifer’s profession of first vows, Congregation of St. Joseph Sisters expressed their joy for her at this moment.
Sister Kathleen Durkin, CSJ, of Wheeling was Sister Jennifer’s candidate director, and said that she had the privilege of coming to know her during her two-year candidacy.
“Knowing something of the challenge of the journey toward first vows it gives me great joy to celebrate with her, with the congregation, her family and all those with whom she ministers,” Sister Kathleen said. “We are gifted to have her among us. Jennifer’s great love of God spills over easily into her love and compassion for others.”
Sister Christin Riley,CSJ, said that after arriving in Wheeling more than four years ago, Sister Jennifer fell more deeply in love with God, the congregation, and the people of West Virginia.
“During the past two years, I had the privilege of living in local community with Jennifer; journeying with her as companion and mentor as she continued her prayerful discernment of God’s call in her life,” Sister Christine said. “Jennifer is a woman of deep faith, prayer and compassion. She freely shares her experience of God’s love with others. Jennifer embodies our mission of unity — helping to bring about unity of all people with God, with one another, and with all creation — That All May Be One…
“In our world, where there is so much division today, we are all called to listen more deeply to one another, to respect diverse views and to come to common ground for the good of all persons,” Sister Christine said. “We don’t have large groups of young women entering religious community today. However, I have great hope that religious life will continue to flourish, possibly in new ways, as we continue to work with and among our CSJ Associates and so many other dedicated women and men who are committed to our common mission. I am filled with joy, delight, and gratitude to God as Jennifer takes this next step on her journey as a vowed member of our congregation of the great love of God.”
Back in 1853, Sister Christine said, before West Virginia became a state, there were only four Sisters of St. Joseph who came up the Ohio River by flatbed boat from St. Louis to work in the newly founded Wheeling Hospital on 15th Street.
“Our congregation is celebrating its 167th year in the state of (Virginia) and West Virginia,” she said. “The Sisters of St. Joseph have had a presence in Wheeling Hospital since 1853.”