|Five new associates have joined the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, which operates Langlade Memorial Hospital.|
Diane Welnetz, Joanna Bretl, Sandy Bonfigt, Erica Gelhausen and Rose Marciniak were welcomed by 24 other associates at a program with a theme of “To Love and Serve.
According to Sister Dolores Demulling of the Religious Hospitallers, the goal of the associate program is to spread the message of Jerome LeRoyer, dating to his founding of the order in 1636.
“We want to serve people with our value system, which includes respect for all people and a freedom to love, serve and come together,” Sister Demulling said. “This is a way to give something to our world that is very special.”
A tax collector and father of five, LeRoyer collaborated with Sister Marie de la Ferre and laywoman Jeanne Mance, the foundress of Montreal, to establish the order, with a mission, unchanged to this day, of announcing the “good news of Jesus Christ by serving the sick, the poor and by education.”
The founders understood that for the order to succeed, it had to have the strong support and assistance of the laity. To that end, they established the Confraternity of the Holy Family, bringing together men and women wishing to live their Christian life intensively.
While the specifics of that formal confraternity were lost to history, the organization reemerged in 1984 when the congregation proposed the foundational elements of the associate program to Christian persons who wished to live the spirit of the order.
Vicky Marx, who has been an associate since the program was started in Antigo in 1995 and now served in a leadership capacity, said the group is like a family.
“This is a nourishment and enrichment of our spiritual life,” she said, explaining that while many associates serve as volunteers for the order and the hospital, the two are not one and the same.
“The objective is to allow the associates to have their own lay identity while totally sharing the spirituality of the founders of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph.” she stressed.
The associate program is open to men and women, most of whom have had their lives touched by the Religious Hospitallers and the local sisters. The process begins informally, with interested candidates first interviewed, and then participating the meetings to delve deeply into the history and mission of the order and their own spiritual lives.
If they choose and take the next step, they formally join the associates through a commitment program.
Today, the Religious Hospitallers has 19 groups consisting of 254 committed associates and 34 in formation. The association extends from New Brunswick, Quebec, France, Ontario, and Peru to the United States, Mexico and Dominican Republic.
Associate Sandy Bonfigt signs her commitment paper in the Langlade Hospital chapel, watched by Associate Leader Jerome Marx. Next to her are new associates Erica Gelhausen, Rose Marciniak, Diane Welnetz, obscured, and JoAnn Bretl.