Sister Joanne, baptized Helen Susan O’Connor, was born on April 5, 1920, in Chicago. She was the sixth child born to the Irish Catholic family of Daniel and Corinne (Barry) O’Connor. Her father was a graduate of the University of Notre Dame who, after serving in the army during World War I, became a real estate agent and efficiency expert. Her mother was a California native who had studied at the University of California in Berkeley and, according to Joanne, was a gifted artist and poet.
In 1922 everything changed for this young idyllic family when their mother died of pneumonia. In her autobiography, Sister Joanne described how she, her siblings and her father coped with the impact of their mother’s death.
My father’s courage in coping with the dilemma of six youngsters, for whom he had to be both parents, has always filled me with awe and respect. He attempted at first to keep us together by hiring housekeepers. However, none of these satisfied his criteria of child guardians so he decided to place us in Catholic boarding schools. When I was three, my sisters and I began this phase of our lives with [two years at St Angela Academy] in Morris, Illinois; [two years at Immaculate Conception] in Davenport, Iowa; and [two years at St. Mary Academy] in Notre Dame, Indiana. My two brothers were placed in boarding schools as close to us as possible so that my father’s visits could include all six of us. For Christmas and summer vacations, we gathered in a rented house or apartment with a housekeeper to care for us. These times together were precious hours when we learned to know each other and our father in a more normal home environment. Perhaps his dual responsibility caused my father to become quite strict and exacting in his treatment of us, so I learned early that manifestations of love and affection would be found in my siblings rather than in my father. I am certain that this has greatly influenced my life.
Read more about Sister Joanne (pdf)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221.
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I am Sr. Joanne’s niece. I am so thankful that, along with Joan and Joe, I was able to “attend” the Mass and Ritual of Remembering via live stream.Joanne was an amazing woman, and truly holy. She had such a rich life in all her varied roles, and put her heart into everything she did. She was incredibly kind, humble, and always grateful, but certainly not without her opinions! I feel so very blessed to have had her as my aunt.Bob and I were so happy that she was able to be with us to celebrate our 25th anniversary and vow renewal in 2008, and that we could spend so many holidays with her over the years while she lived in California.Joanne, we pray for you. Please pray for us, there now with our God, and with my mother, Catherine, and your parents and all your other siblings.Love,Gina (Regina)
To my Sister Joanne,Hi, Love, this is instead of our next Sunday's phone visit; I will desperately miss our conversations. There are so many memories surfacing now, starting with earliest when you were about fifteen and I,5ish, you often asked me to scratch your back and to tell you the time—where the big and little hands were. You had to put your homework in the locked cabinet so we babes wouldn't get at it. You were so attentive to us and we ate it up.I was thrilled when you moved to the San Francisco area and we could visit occasionally—whenever you weren't working. You had that awful commute over the bay bridge for one longtime job--it was very taxing. But whenever we were together we had so much fun. You were game for anything. Then there was my wedding to Joe where you gained another very big fan. He is missing you as much as I do. You have a lot of friends, Joanne. Does that tell you your personality was a work of art? You have beautifully filled the role that God designed for you and Whose arms enfold you now. Pray for us, please?With so much love,Joe and Joan
Our Adrian Dominican cemetery with its circular headstones is a beautiful place of rest for women who gave their lives in service to God—and a peaceful place for contemplation and remembrance.
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We invite you to meet some of the wonderful women who have recently crossed into eternity.