Sister Joann Julka

Sister Joann JulkaSister Joann says she is “a farmer’s daughter, and proud of it"  She was born on September 2, 1944, in rural Johnsburg, Wisconsin. She has a twin brother and another brother as her siblings.

Her contact with women religious began early with the School Sisters of St. Francis who staffed St. John the Baptist School in Johnsburg.  She attended this school for her first eight years of education.

For high school, she attended St. Mary’s Springs Academy in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, staffed by the Sisters of St. Agnes. Sister Joann remembers Sister Michaela and Sister Dolora from the academy, and she has also kept in touch with Sister Rose Ann, an Agnesian sister who is a first cousin once removed who worked at St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac.

But what enticed Joann to enter the School Sisters of St. Francis was the spirit of the teachers at St. John the Baptist School, and in particular the principal, Sister Winifred Pfaller, who brought her to the convent. Sister Joann Riesterer has also been a life-long friend whom Joann got to know when she was the principal of St. John the Baptist School.

Highlights of Sister Joann’s higher education were her graduation from Alverno College with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in English. She went on to Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa to get her master’s degree in education with a concentration in social studies. Sister Joan Tabat of our community nurtured her love for liturgy, which resulted in Sister Joann pursuing and earning a master’s degree in liturgical studies from Notre Dame.

Sister Joann began her ministry at Cassville, Wisconsin, teaching social studies in grades six, seven, and eight. Then it was on to Monona, a suburb of Madison, where Sister Joann served at Immaculate Heart of Mary School as the eighth-grade teacher. After receiving her liturgical studies degree, she became half-time teacher and half-time liturgist at IHM for a total of 19 years. Her current ministry has been at Good Shepherd, Menomonie Falls, serving as the fulltime liturgist.

Her greatest satisfaction has been the credibility she feels, being a degreed liturgical minister. She senses the trust that the parish has in her ministering presence. She has been happiest in ministry, when the whole is working together, being Church, and giving glory and praise to God, the true dynamic of the people of God.  Special times of celebration have been Christmases and the Easter Triduums. 

Sister Joann said her greatest challenge is getting the people to appreciate “mystery,” the richness of liturgy.  Sister Joann is a “Vatican II person” trying to understand the minimalism and failure of people to use the fullness of the symbols. 

She has served in Menomonee Falls for 27 years and counting. Last year she retired from her role as liturgist, but she continues to find life in belonging to the parish choir, working with art and décor, and participating in faith-sharing groups.  In her spare time, she loves to do crossword puzzles, read, and take long walks.

Sister Joann has found it particularly life-giving to be a religious sister and a member of the School Sister of St. Francis community. She treasures the beliefs she shares in common in mission and values, and the support she has received in her ministry education.  She is “happy to be a School Sister of St. Francis, and proud of it” these past 60 years!

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