Dorothy Forbes, as a CSJ Associate, knows in her heart that she is doing what she was meant to do. As an active parishioner of the Catholic Community of St. Stephen/St. Patrick in Whitney Point, Forbes is one of 28 CSJ Associates who serve the Broome County community alongside the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet of the Albany Province by sharing their mission to love God and neighbor without distinction. She’s been involved in the ministry for the last six years.
CSJ Associates are women and men who are at least 18 years old, from all walks of life, who have one thing in common: they want to live the Gospel message more intensely. As Associates, they belong to a community of people who share a common desire to strengthen their relationship with God. They support one another in living Gospel values and are guided by the history, spirituality and charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet while maintaining their own lifestyles as married, widowed or single persons.
During Forbes’ time of discernment, she remembers the moment when she made her final decision to become an Associate. “I was undecided until I heard the phrase, ‘to serve our dear neighbor without distinction,’” Forbes recalled. “The minute I walked in, I immediately thought, ‘These are truly happy people [Associates].’ It was just amazing.”
“It’s a joy serving with them,” she remarked. “They have a welcoming approach to everyone. There’s mutual support and encouragement for one another and they live a life of compassion and concern for others — it doesn’t matter who it is.”
Sister Alma Jones, CSJ, who is on the Associates team for the Province and serves in parish ministry at St. Patrick’s in Binghamton, explained how the Associates carry out the Sisters’ mission by volunteering at Cortland/Chenango Rural Services in Cincinnatus. The program assists people in 11 surrounding towns in obtaining food, furniture, appliances, clothing, household items and fellowship, as well as education on nutrition and aging. “They [Associates] give monetary contributions, clothing, or whatever they need to Rural Services,” said Sister Alma. “It’s important for the Associates to be aware of the needs of the people in our community. Supporting the ministry is part of who we are — our calling to help people in need.”
Sister Kathleen Heffron, CSJ, executive director of Rural Services, is extremely grateful for the volunteers’ efforts. “It’s a great support system,” she said. “There are so many Associates, each with different gifts. It’s nice knowing that they are there.”
Every summer, Sister Kathleen invites the Associates to a picnic to show her appreciation.
“Rural Services thrives on hope and trust,” added Forbes. “The volunteers are the ones who make it happen. They live the Gospel — they’re amazing.”
Forbes works closely with Sister Kathleen and relays the needs of Rural Services and gives an update on its activities to the Associates at their monthly meeting in Binghamton.
Forbes visits Rural Services at least twice every week and is the only Associate who is in continuous contact with them because she is the only one who lives in the northern part of Broome County; the others live near Binghamton. She has helped out by using her administrative skills, writing grant proposals and has recently created an operations manual, bringing stability to the organization. “My next project will be working on the history of Rural Services,” she said.
Joanne Horoschak, a coordinator of the Binghamton Associates, became involved with the Associates eight years ago, through her acquaintance with a few Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. “They were interesting people,” said Horoschak.
“I love the spirituality of the people in the group,” she said of the Associates. “We sometimes go on day retreats to places like Sky Lake in Windsor to keep ourselves spiritually connected. We go to the motherhouse in Latham every year for a retreat. We meet groups from other areas and listen to interesting presenters. It’s satisfying spiritually.”
“It’s a unique ministry,” added Forbes. “We volunteers come with a hole in our hearts. Mutually, we heal each other. There’s no hierarchy of value or worth among us.”