Sister Joyce Ann Panos

Sister Joyce Ann PanosI understand being alone. I grew up a loner due to my mother dying when I was 16 months old. I was sent to live at Grandma’s house. I returned home to finally stay after my dad’s third marriage when I was seven. Life became abusive for my sister and me, but I found comfort and healing in the presence of the horses that grazed in the fields near our house. I came to understand well the gentleness, patience, healing, strength, acceptance, and love that they shared with me. I came to know this was going to be my way of life.

When we moved, I was privileged to attend Catholic school where I met our School Sisters of St. Francis, who were accepting and loving, patient and strong. They nurtured God’s call within me to join the community. My greatest desire was to be a homemaker and share my talents with the sisters. I enjoyed grazing in these pastures for a few years.

Soon, with bit and bridle, I was led off to college to get a teaching certificate. This perhaps posed the greatest challenge and accomplishment in my earlier years with community. I learned patience and endurance. Following that, I was prancing around the pastures in Howells, Nebraska, where I taught first grade for 18 years, and served as principal and homemaker as well.

As the sisters aged and retired, I was faced with living alone, so I looked to new pastures. I galloped off to Milwaukee, where for the last 31 years I’ve been serving the sisters through personal services at Sacred Heart and driving the van.

As one sister shared with me: “You are as healthy as a horse. You can trot like a horse. You have lots of horsepower. You have good horse sense. You don’t horse around. You have a good horse laugh. You hold your horses in patience. You keep your horse before the cart. You allow anyone to ride your horse as you minister to anyone in need.”

My time and talents are not my own. They are a gift from God to be used in the service of others. I try never to say “No” to anyone if I can help them. I’ve made this my goal each day. I take one day at a time, “horsing around” as best I can and giving praise to God each night for the work that He has accomplished through me.

My happiest moments are in the evening when I come home to my Stable 404 and I sit amidst my horses and I commune with God, my Almighty Stallion.

Then my time is spent relaxing with my crafts, sewing, and making string cards for my annual craft show – all proceeds go to my street ministry. On weekends, I put my homemaking skills to work baking brownies, cookies, muffins, and creating goody boxes. Then two friends and I go out and share them with our brothers and sisters living on the streets. It is so rewarding to see their smiles and hear their gratitude. For all this, I am forever grateful!”

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