- Corporate body
An Associate is a layperson who has made a commitment to the mission of a religious community. In a study undertaken in 2016 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, two-thirds of religious institutes reported having an Associates program. In that year, there were 56,000 Associates in the USA and Canada, and 90% of them were women, with 71% of Associates being over 60 years of age. Like vowed religious, laypeople who become Associates speak of being called to their role and having an inner spirituality that the programs allow to flourish. The charism of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada does not belong to any one congregation, but to the world. Both Associates and women religious are called to the same mission and charism, yet Associates and women religious are distinctly different. Where Sisters hold religious vocations with life in common to the mission and the charism through perpetual vows, Associates hold individual vocations with life to the mission and the charism and yearn for a deeper spiritual commitment, but individuals may be unable or unwilling to take perpetual vows. Associate requirements vary by community. Over time, there has been a shift in the leadership of Associate programs from vowed religious to lay directors. Some Associates have taken over ministries formerly run by the religious community.
On July 9th, 1987, the Congregation of St. Joseph approved the movement towards having an Associates Program complete with a candidate process and formal training process. The program began on April 4th, 1989, in London, Ontario, Canada. The Associates Program was originally founded by Sister Doreen Kraemer and later administered by Sister Janet Zadorsky. As of April 2017, administration of the program was taken over by two Lay Mentors, Mary Shamley and Ann Baker.