A Little Free Library to honor the CSJs

Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange

The idea of creating a Little Free Library in honor of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange seemed like a natural fit.

Sister Joanna Rosciszewska, CSJ, was intrigued by the take-a-book, leave-a-book pay-it-forward concept launched in Hudson, Wis., in 2010 and since spread across the globe, including a charming wooden library in her neighborhood. It then occurred to her that she could enlist the three young members of the inaugural St. Joseph Worker Program in Orange, Calif., to build a compact outdoor library as a tribute to the region’s CSJ Sisters, many of whom have dedicated themselves to education. When Sister Joanna learned about the National Catholic Sisters Week mini-grants, it all fell into place.

Her good friend Mary Vagnone, a volunteer with the St. Joseph Worker Program-Orange, jumped in and filled out the grant application. Mary outlined their plans, including a March 8 dedication ceremony. “The library would be a prominent tribute honoring the Sisters of St. Joseph or Orange and their zeal for education and healing of the community,” she wrote.

Mary detailed the location the team had selected, outside the College Building on the CSJ-Orange campus, a high-traffic spot right next to a hospital.

Then came the good news from Molly Hazelton, co-executive director of the National Catholic Sisters Week team housed at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn., and funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation: their $1,000 grant had been awarded!

“It was thrilling,” Mary said. “Everybody is so excited.”

As she sees it, the Little Free Library is a lovely emblem of CSJ values.

“This definitely fits into the Sisters of St. Joseph and their mission,” Mary said. “It’s honoring the sisters who have been serving in education all their lives.” It’s also a natural fit, she added, to involve their St. Joseph Workers, who “live the mission of unity and reconciliation by serving the dear neighbor without distinction,” Mary wrote in the grant application.

The group has set to work designing their library: registering it, planning its signage, identifying the material (a piece of a natural-wood cabinet to refurbish) and establishing a library steward to help manage it and stock the shelves.

But for all their planning, Mary said, she’s keenly aware that the beauty of a Little Free Library is the way it takes on a life of its own.

“We’re going to see where the Spirit guides us,” Mary said. “People are amazed that Sister Joanna and our group have been able to get this off the ground so quickly. It’s only through the providence of God that this is succeeding.”

Best of all, Mary says, the Little Free Library this mini-grant makes possible could lead to additional libraries. “Would it be great to have more of these Little Free Libraries at some of the special ministry sites associated with the sisters? We see this as a springboard to more Little Free Libraries through the congregation. This is just the beginning.”

About Christina Capecchi

Christina Capecchi is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something,” which appears in more than 50 Catholic newspapers across the country. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, America, The Chicago Tribune, The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press. She also provides contracted editing and writing services. She holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from Mount Mercy University.