September 25, 1939 – February 11, 2017
“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love God”.
This hymn just sung - was also sung at our Mass at the Motherhouse last Sunday. The words of this hymn prompted me to think of Sister Joan Rea as I reflected about her sudden death on Saturday night. It was at some of my visits to her, that Joan expressed her longing to have God come and take her to heaven. I am wondering now, if perhaps, during her intimate prayer with God, was Joan conscious of what God had waiting for her – something better other than this illness she was now enduring.
Entering the Congregation in 1960 and coming from her precious hometown – Allston, Joan Patricia Rea felt God’s invitation at age 21 to become a Sister of St. Joseph. Given the religious name of Sister Joseph Agnes, she willingly accepted the ministry of food manager and served many Sisters of St. Joseph at our convents. In 2003 Joan chose to minister to the priests at St. Theresa’s, West Roxbury, and at St. Bartholomew Rectory in Needham .During those years , and her residing in local communities in and near Boston, Joan was able to serve the “dear neighbor” with any needs she witnessed or were expressed to her. After the death of her dear friend, Sister Anna Vincent Joan made the decision to move to St. Joseph Hall. There she became – in her words – “in love” with the residents on the second floor of Bethany, and could often be seen accompanying with loving care the residents at their activities even if it was only to walk with them up and down the second floor corridor!
In our CSJ Constitution we read “our life of prayer is a dynamic relationship with God, an ever- increasing intimacy with the God who is the center of our lives”... As illness took over Joan physical life, it seemed that prayer became of great importance in her life. I wonder if the words of Isaiah entered her mind, “when the Lord has given you bread of suffering…God will hide no longer, you will see God with your own eyes”. Sister Joan appeared during her days of illness to internalize God’s words and conceivably may have recognized the depth of Paul’s message in his letter to Titus. In part, these words stated that it was not that God was concerned with the acts we had done, but the main reason was God’s compassion to save us, and renew us in the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ.
Often visiting Sr. Joan’s room in Bethany she was sitting in her chair, sometimes with her eyes closed. We do not know but maybe she was listening to God’s soft voice. In these moments possibly she was attempting to grasp God’s message of promise and love and also perceiving Jesus words, “do not let your heart be troubled, have faith in God and faith in me as well”.
For us as Sisters of St. Joseph Sister Joan Rea, Sister Joseph Agnes, was too young to die. However as women in the Congregation of the great love of God, we look upon her death as a blessing for Joan. We recognize and believe that each one of us on this earth is beloved of God, and God’s goodness to us is to fulfill God’s promise of preparing a place for us. We believe that God will invite us to that place in God’s time. On Saturday, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes it was God’s time to call Sister Joan Rea to her eternal place.
We the Sisters of St. Joseph are grateful to the Rea family for the gift of Sister Joan. We are grateful too for the 57 years she ministered at a Sister of St. Joseph, now we ask our compassionate God to grant Sister Joan Rea eternal peace.
Gail Donahue, CSJ