The FSJ define their spirituality as “total detachment from all (meaning from everything) in order to have a radical attachment to Christ in humility and continuous conversion accompanied by joy, simplicity and concern for others” (Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph, Plan of Action: January 1st, 2010 to January 1st, 2015. P. 27). In the FSJ own words:
We draw our spirituality from the living example of our founder Father Philip Scheffer who, in imitation of Christ was moved with compassion for the people he ministered to (Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph, Plan of Action: January 1st, 2010 to January 1st, 2015, P. 27). We also draw our spirituality from St Francis, who in an effort to show his total detachment from ALL (sic), removed his clothes and handed them to his father saying (Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph, Plan of Action: January 1st, 2010 to January 1st, 2015, P. 27) “listen to me all of you and understand. Until now I have called Pietro di Bernadone my father. But because I have proposed to serve God, I return to him the money on account of which he was upset, and also all the clothing which is his, wanting to say from now on Our Father who are (sic) in heaven and not my father, Pietro di Bernadone” (Francis of Assisi, the Founder 1998, p. 538).
The FSJ further state that their charism is “joyful love of God and compassion for the people” in imitation of Jesus as is found in Mark 6:34. The FSJ interpret this in a vision that is “to promote the dignity of women, children and the less fortunate” (Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph, Plan of Action: January 1st, 2010 to January 1st, 2015, p. 28). Thus they formulate their mission in the following manner:
to radiate joyful love and compassion to the people through the ministries of teaching in all levels of education, care of the orphans, care for the elderly, youth ministry, pastoral/social work and health care. (Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph, Asumbi, Plan of Action, 2010, p. 28).
In order to become sisters the girls went through many challenges, especially as they were going against their culture. In the words of Sister Francis Therese, a Franciscan Missionary Sister of St Joseph (Mill Hill Sister):
To appreciate fully the true value of an African girl’s religious vocation one must have some knowledge of her background and tribal life and custom. Before she can enter the convent she must overcome almost insuperable difficulties. From her childhood it is taken for granted that she will one day marry and bring to her parents and family her “bride price”. Even though the prospective bride has had no say in the choosing of the bridegroom she must consent to marry. This tribal custom causes much sorrow and anguish to the African girl who realizes as she grows up that she has a religious vocation. Opposition, in many cases is joined with force (The Franciscan Missionary Herald of 1963, p. 23).
It was the Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph (FMSJ) also known as Mill Hill Sisters, who gave the early FSJ their full formation as religious sisters in the Catholic Church. When they were satisfied that the FSJ could be on their own they moved on to other places in Kenya and beyond. The parting words of Sister Francis Therese, one of them, were prophetic:
The African Sisters have an important role in the life of the Church, particularly now that the independence for Kenya seems not too far distant. At present they have the guidance and support of the Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph, but there is every reason to have confidence that they will stand firm in any emergency which may arise. May the Providence of God continue to direct and watch over the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, in the uncertain time which lies ahead (The Franciscan Missionary Herald of 1963, p. 27)
As one follows the development of Asumbi and notes the succession of missionaries who went there and left in fairly short periods of time, some of them breaking down, one conclusion is that this place was not easily manageable, due to sickness and isolation, among other challenges. However, the Mill Hill Missionaries were set to participate in bringing about the realization of their founder’s vision, to carry out their mission by producing well-prepared and well read local missionaries that would succeed them. While they produced just such men in the form of local priests, the women counterpart, the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, are outstanding in scholarship and achievement in education in their turn, not only in Asumbi but also in many parts of Kenya and beyond.