On the cover of the liturgical booklet is a quote from our Constitutions:
Stimulated by the Holy Spirit of Love and receptive to its inspirations, the Sister of St. Joseph moves always toward a profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction.
These words seem to epitomize the life of Sister Joan McCarthy, especially in reviewing the ministries she assumed during her 65 years of religious life as a Sister of St. Joseph.
Sister Joan or Sister St. Magdalen- the name she was given at the reception of the habit on March 19, 1951, first began her ministry as a teacher in elementary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Boston. Witnessing her professional competence and educational certifications, Sister Joan was selected to the position of principal in two elementary Catholic schools. Her gentle smile and academic skills endeared her to the students, parents and teachers at each school. During these years, Sister St. Magdalen also enjoyed the companionship of Sisters with whom she lived, and of friends, particularly some from her Party- meaning (those who had entered the Congregation with her in 1950.) Sister also was involved in the Congregation and became a member in Congregation committees. Memories of Sister Joan as a member of the Liturgical Committee have been mentioned these past few days. Personally, a memory for me is before I entered the Congregation, when I was in senior high school, I drove Sister Joan and other Sisters in her Party to official destinations as well as to get ice cream!
However, even though enjoying ministering in Catholic Schools for over 34 years, God seemed to stir within Sister Joan a desire to serve another group of people. So in 1990 Sister Joan began full time study for a Master’s Degree in Gerontology in New York. Her studies completed, Sister obtained employment at Ozanam Hall in Bayside, New York. She observed the loving care from the Carmelite Sisters to the elderly at this nursing facility. This inspired Sister Joan in her work to embody not only the spirit of the Carmelite Sisters but also to encapsulate it with the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Joan’s missioning letter from her Area Councilor quoted our CSJ Constitution stating in part for her to: “attempt in the concrete realities of our lives to live the message of Christ Jesus and to bear witness to His love.” It has been at Ozanam Hall that Sister Joan has been ministering during these past years.
Recently when Sr. Rosemary and I visited Sister Joan at Ozanam Hall we could easily observe how much Sister Joan was admired and loved by the residents and administrators there. She was not only their beloved resident, but a cherished member of their Pastoral Care Staff.
For Sister Joan’s ministry to take such direction one must conclude that not only was God an instrument in this path, but that Sister Joan Mc McCarthy was a woman of great prayer. It appears that she internalized God’s messages to her, listened to God’s word, and followed where God was directing where she was to serve.
In planning for this celebration of Sister Joan McCarthy – Sister St. Magdalen’s life as a Sister of St Joseph, I came across her25th Jubilee Mass booklet. I noticed from the scripture readings for this Mass which she had chosen, that perhaps she desired to portray her spiritual life. She seemed to know herself as chosen of God– endowed with God’s Spirit – noted by the reading from the prophet Jeremiah - that she was a recipient of spiritual blessings - stated in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and that she was urged to go forth and bear fruit- words from St. John’s Gospel.
Sister Joan’s acknowledgement of God’s graces to her originated not from her entrance into the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 8, 1950, but on the day she was born. Gifted with loving parents and four siblings her family must have possessed a home that knew the presence of God. I am certain that Sister Joan is smiling from heaven at her family, here present in this chapel this morning, to pray for her and celebrate her life as a Sister of St. Joseph- a woman religious of the Church.
We give thanks for the gift Sister Joan R. McCarthy was to her family, to our Congregation, her friends and colleagues, the Carmelite Sisters, especially Sister Joseph Catherine and Sister Philip Anne. We are grateful Sister Joan answered God’s call for giving her life to the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph serving the dear neighbors that were in her midst.
Sister Joan, you are now united with your loving God, who has grasped your hand, and taken you home to your eternal reward.
Gail Donahue, CSJ