Sister Joan Riedley, OSU: “Bringing joy and music to her hometown”

Her father, Bill Riedley, had a heating and air conditioning business, but he also built homes, and did a little bit of everything. (While Sister Joan was on a mission in New Mexico, her father had the family home moved from one side of St. Denis to the other, where it rests today.) Her mother, Lorene, was a homemaker for her five children, and prayed daily that her children would choose a religious vocation like her brother, Fr. Leo Dienes.

The St. Helen and St. Matthias ladies clubs combined for this picture in 2007. Sister Joan is in the front row. In the back left is Sister Darlene Denton.

“At the end of the eighth grade, I decided I wanted to go to the boarding school (Mount Saint Joseph Academy),” Sister Joan said. “My older cousin (Sister Kathleen Kaelin) went to school there and one of my aunts.”

“My mom cried every time she left me at the Mount,” Sister Joan said. She enjoyed her time at the Academy, but concedes she got a lot of demerits. “I giggled and laughed a lot.”

Sister Joan is a favorite among her nieces and nephews, said one such niece, Lisa Tapp.

“As a child, I always thought she was the coolest person I knew,” Tapp said. “It was a special treat to spend the night with her at Grandma’s.Joan had all the latest records, and we would sing and dance in the basement for hours.”

Sister Joan took several vacations with Tapp’s family through the years, with the most memorable a pre-novitiate trip on a houseboat to Cumberland Lake.

“It seems Joan does her best fishing when she’s away from her pole,” Tapp said. “She had cast her line, then come inside to play cards with us. We kept hearing an odd buzzing outside, and looked out the window to see her line pulling out.There was a lot of running and a lot of laughing, but she managed to land a large bass — the biggest catch of the whole trip.”

Sister Joan visits Norma Bartsch at the Summerfield Manor Nursing Home. Norma was a member of St. Matthias Parish, and Sister Joan has visited her for 15 years.

When Sister Joan’s two older sisters and brothers got married, she knew she was her mother’s last chance to have a child join a vocation. Still, she wasn’t thinking of that when she went to the Academy.

“My senior year (1963), 12 girls joined, so I did too,” she said. “I’m sure mom prayed me in. I’ve never regretted it.” One of those 12 was her former St. Denis classmate, Sister Karla Marie Kaelin.

“(Sister Joan) is a very creative person, give her anything musical and she can do it,” Sister Karla said.

Sister Joan’s novice class had 25 women in it, but only seven remain: Sisters Laurita Spalding, Melissa Tipmore, Lisa Marie Cecil, Diane Marie Payne, Mary Timothy Bland, Karla and Joan.

“We call ourselves the Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost,” Sister Lisa Marie said with a smile.

Sisters Lisa Marie and Joan e-mail each other every day just to keep up with the little things going on in their lives. “She’s like the Energizer bunny,” Sister Lisa Marie said.

Many years ago, the two were part of a group that vacationed in Maggie Valley, N.C., “by way of the ocean,” Sister Lisa Marie said. “We laugh because it’s not that close to the ocean.”

The sisters sang the whole way, with Sister Lisa Marie playing the harmonica. “I don’t really play the harmonica, I was just ad-libbing,” she said.

Heading West

Sister Joan’s first teaching job was for a semester in Waverly, Ky., at St. Peter of Antioch School. Then she took on the new adventure of New Mexico.

“I was excited about going. My mother really had a hard time letting me go,” she said. “I really wasn’t homesick, it’s so different there. I loved the culture, the scenery, the people, the Indians,” she said.