In Remembrance of Sister Joan Walz, OSU
July 10, 2017
Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU
Shared by Sister Mary Matthias Ward
In Scripture, we read that “You know not the day nor the hour” that God will call us. Sister Joan was called home when none of us expected it. She was celebrating her life with her family and Sister Mary Agnes when the call for eternal life came. How fitting to be celebrating her birthday when she was born again.
Joan was born on July 1, 1931 in Cloverport, KY to Otto Walz and Ida May Brown Walz. It was interesting to note that she did not have a middle name. She was baptized on September 13, 1931 at St. Rose Church in Cloverport, KY by Reverend Gardian Lewis, C. P. She joined her sisters, Martha, Regina and Dorothy and welcomed a younger brother, George in 1937. George and Dorothy, we offer you our sympathy and prayers at the loss of your sister so soon after losing Regina. We will continue to pray for you and your family. It has been a great loss for you and for all of us.
Joan’s formal address as a child was Hawesville, KY, but Cloverport was closer, so she went to school there at St. Rose. Her mother, Ida May, was a housekeeper and helped run the family store. Her father, Otto, was a farmer, and she said, when telling about her childhood, “I was his boy.” While attending St. Rose School, she was taught by Sr. Mary Alice Cravens, Sr. Mary Ethel Sims, Sr. Mary Denis Bumpus and Sr. Mary Cornelius Smith. She liked school and said, “Sister Ethel Sims was my fourth-grade teacher. She played with us at recess. She was really an inspiration.”
She received the sacrament of Confirmation on October 9, 1941. Bishop Francis R. Cotton was bishop at the time.
When it was time to go to high school, she attended Mount Saint Joseph Academy. She graduated in 1949. She knew before high school that she wanted to be a Sister. “My senior year, I had a very moving experience during retreat,” she said. “I was reading a book about the Trinity, I just felt so one with the Trinity.” She had to work at the Academy to help pay for her tuition. “I’d clean tables and do laundry. Sometimes I would kneel before the Blessed Mother statue in the Chapel. I thought how beautiful it was to live and die in such an atmosphere.” Her principal at the Academy was Sr. Lucita Greenwell and some of the other teachers were Sr. Charles Emmaline, Sr. Mary Anna, Sr. Francesca, Sr. Martha Ann and Sr. Joan Brown.
Joan entered the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph on September 7, 1949. She was in a very large class. Eleven women entered with her in September. Seven more entered on February 1 and another seven entered on February 13, 1950. There were twenty-five women in her class. Of that class, there are eight remaining—Sister Marie William, Sister Marie Goretti Browning, Sister Elaine Burke, Sister Marie Carol Cecil, Sister Mary Jude
Cecil, Sister Amanda Rose Mahoney, Sister Alfreda Malone and Sister Mary Angela Mathews. Sisters, we are praying for you and with you as you say good bye to your friend and classmate. Sister Mary Agnes, you weren’t in her class but your friendship over the years meant so much to her. We offer you our sympathy and prayers.
There was a letter of recommendation in her file from Father Anthony Higdon to Mother Immaculata when she was getting ready to enter. It stated, “I consider it an honor and get much satisfaction out of highly recommending Joan Walz to your community as a candidate for the sisterhood…I am delighted and believe she will make an excellent Sister. Her family background is good.”
On August 14, 1950, Joan received the veil and became Sister Joan of Arc. Two years later, she made her temporary profession and began her teaching career at St. Paul School in Leitchfield, KY. She was then assigned to teach elementary school in Nebraska. After four years as principal and teacher at St. Joseph School in Paul, NE, Sister Joan went to Earlington, KY, to a mini-high school with few students. The Bishop decided to close the school, so Sister Joan went to St. Joseph’s High School in Mayfield, KY. It also closed while she was there. After that she came back to the Academy at the Mount. “We had them hanging from the ceiling,” she said. During the 1960’s and early 1970’s the school had a large number of students.
Sister Joan taught social studies and religion at the Mount and was a dorm monitor. “The girls tell me all sorts of things now that they did,” she said. “Some of the girls went to St. Alphonsus one night. We decided to lock the doors. They stayed in the cellar that night.”
From the Academy, she moved to Trinity High School in Whitesville where she taught for four years.
During all these years of teaching, she was also attending college to get certified. She received a bachelor’s degree in History with a Minor in Math in 1967 from Brescia College, now University. She received a Master’s in Education with a concentration in History from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green in July of 1971.
Sister Joan’s next assignment was at the Motherhouse as Director of Retirement. She said it was one of the ministries she enjoyed the most. While working at the Mount, she talked about many social issues and began writing to senators and representatives to try to change their opinions on nuclear proliferation. It was during this time that the Mount became a nuclear free zone.
In 1980 to 88, she served on the Council for the Community. She said, “We don’t look at those positions as prestige, it’s more a service role. We’re really interested in what’s for the good of the Sisters.”
When she completed her term on the Council she went to a workshop about nursing. This led to her next career as a nurse. She said she was the grandmother in the class because she was 57 years old at the time. She received her nursing certificate from University of Kentucky Community College System in Jefferson Community College in 1991. She worked for five years in the Infirmary at the Mount.
In 1999, she spent two months at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia, KS. She wanted time for prayer and spiritual growth. She was deciding what her next ministry was going to be. She went to stay at Hickman, KY, with Sister Mary Agnes and the rest is history. They moved to McQuady to be a wonderful presence to the people of the area.
Sisters Joan served so well in her ministry at McQuady. In an article about Sisters serving with the support of the community, she said, “We, religious, believe the Spirit grants to us consecrated women, unique gifts to help us live a life of love and ministry. When we visit the sick at home, in the hospitals and nursing homes, we are touched as we witness their deep faith and the manner in which they accept their limitations. Our time with them, depending on their condition, consists of an update on parish activities, a bit of small talk including something amusing to provoke a laugh, prayer and Holy Communion, Apparently, these visits are meaningful because they let us know they miss us if we are unable to come.”
These are all facts about Sister Joan. It is hard to put into words a description of her as a person. Her love of life, her love of her family, her willingness to move forward, her courage in facing new ministries, her determination to change the world during the time of nuclear development, her kindness to students and to the Sisters as she served are all ways she witnessed to all of us her complete commitment to her religious life. She gave without counting the cost. She loved her community during times of change and difficulty. She worked to make it better. She gave an example of wholehearted commitment to her vows.
Joan, you left us so quickly, we did not get to thank you for your wonderful example of giving. May you rest in the hands of God and enjoy your everlasting reward for a life of goodness and service to our Community, our Church and our world.