It is with great sadness that I reflect on the life and passing of Sister Joanne Williams. We gathered as a community for a healing novena for Sister. It is fitting that we take a moment and recall a passage. All powerful God, creator of the heavens and the earth, we believe that you hold the world in your hands. Helpless we stand before you. We entrust ourselves to your wisdom.
Sister Joanne and I are both from St. Joan of Arc Parish. It seems like we’ve always been connected. Sister Joanne grew up here in Lisle on Maple Ave. just a mile or so from the Monastery. We started school together at St. Joan of Arc and she continued her religious education as an R.E. student with Sister De Paul. We reconnected and spent our high school years at Sacred Heart Academy.
Just as a tree goes strong when its roots are firmly planted she flourished in her religious community and her local communities and spent most of her life teaching in elementary schools. During her calling to the educational field that spanned over 24 years Sister Joanne taught in Ohio, Texas and Chicago.
Sister Joanne’s spent 10 satisfying years as a teacher and then went on to become principal of Our Lady of Lourdes in Chicago, which she quickly grew to love. At Our Lady of Lourdes she was touched by the extreme poverty of some areas of the city. After long hours as the chief executor of the school she turned her efforts to the needy. She entered into an agreement with Carson Pirie Scott to collect their excess clothing and home furnishings. She would organize her gatherings and invite the parishioners to “shop” at a greatly reduced price and then donate the proceeds back to the school.
God gifted Sister with a talent for art and she worked to receive a M.S. in Design Education. She put her talents to work creating an after school program called “Young Rembrandts” as well as becoming the Diocesan Art Coordinator for schools on Chicago’s west side. Music, another great love of hers, brought her to the parish choir. Once, while attending the funeral of the father of one of my teachers who was also a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes, I was struck by how much compassion and pure joy she brought to the music ministry. Her motto was, “Live your lives to the fullest, be happy and praise God daily.” Forever bringing the word of God to the people Sister Joanne joined Bishop Dempsey in his mission to form The Westside Cluster of Catholic Parishes, and visited various groups within these parishes.
Sister’s great devotion to the school and parish, her untiring work with both teachers and students, her deep and unselfish love for parishioners and students, were determining factors in her having been chosen as recipient of the Humanitarian Award.
In the early 90’s when the school closed, the parish priests gave each sister the gift of a vacation and for the first time Sister Joanne went on a trip accompanied by Sr. De Paul to Canada, Sea World and Disneyland. Returning from the trip of a lifetime, another challenge awaited Sister Joanne. She and Sister DePaul returned to Sacred Heart Monastery bringing along with them her cat, Sabrina. Upon her return Sister Joanne accepted the position of Hospitality Director at the Queen of Peace Center. Her outstanding attribute of hospitality kept her involved with the living facility in many different capacities. Sister Joanne did everything in her power to welcome new residents as they painfully left their own homes. She comforted and worked with them as they made the adjustment to their new lifestyles. She also served as the Alumnae Director for the Benedictine Sisters, staying in touch with all Sacred Heart Academy’s alums. Sister Joanne was so gracious, loving and gentle. Even in her final days, after recovery assistance, her response was a gentle "Thank You." Now as a community, we say "Thank You" to you for being such a gentle person. Our Benedictine community was blessed to have you as a member. So now, our beloved Sister Joanne, we ask the heavenly choir to welcome you, we ask the many residents of Queen of Peace who have journeyed on before you to see that you now enjoy your new heavenly mansion and we ask that the Lord welcome you and give you new life.
Goodbye my old friend, you were one of a kind.
May the Lord bless you.
May the Lord keep you.
May the Lord lift up His Divine countenance and bring you peace.