Sister Joan Schumacher is a kind, caring person whose concept of religious life was shaped mainly by the sisters at St. Kilian School in Hartford, where she attended grade school.
“I was mystified by the fact that they did everything together and never got crabby with one another,” she said. “My older sister, Norma, who entered the School Sisters of St. Francis in 1947, helped me to know what convent life was like. My parents never opposed my decision to enter the convent, and continued to give me a lot of encouragement along the way.”
“My sister, Norma, was an anchor for me. I always looked up to her. She wanted me to be perfect but I wasn’t the perfect type!” Sister Joan said. “It was mainly her concern for me that helped me persevere through the aspirancy. When I had doubts or questions, she was always there for me.”
Her teaching ministry brought Sister Joan into contact with many primary grade children in the Chicago area like St. Anne School in Barrington, Our Lady of Charity in Cicero, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview. “I especially enjoyed teaching art classes and preparing the children for their First Holy Communion,” she said.
“After living in community all these years, I now realize that not everybody is always happy and some sisters will never be easy to deal with,” she reflected. “My years at Our Lady of Victory in Chicago were the happiest because there were a lot of younger sisters there, including two of my classmates. We enjoyed many good times together, especially at meals because we were seated by age in the dining room, which encouraged a lot of good sharing and storytelling.”
“One of my best memories from the past 70 years was learning to drive,” Sister Joan said. “This made it possible for me to help others get around as needed.” Always looking for opportunities to help others, Sister Joan began to take care of children when parents were away. “One of the families I worked for has remained friends with me to this day,” she said.
Another new venture at this time was to work toward certification as a beautician. This made it possible for her to work in a salon on Saturdays. After Sister Joan moved to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 1968, she established her own salon in the convent.
Now in her senior years, Sister Joan enjoys embroidery work, hand stitching, and cooking.
“Today, as I look back over my life, I feel God’s presence,” Sister Joan said. “As I continue to grow in sisterhood as a faithful Franciscan, I enjoy my community and people around me. I believe God is faithful and will be with me always.”
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