Sister Joan Brede

Sister Joan BredeWhen Joan met the School Sisters of St. Francis at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee, she was immediately impressed by them. She recalled talking to her mother about them. “They are different from the sisters who taught me in grade school,” she remembered telling her. “They are so human and warm.”

It was these women who inspired Joan to be a teacher and, by the end of high school, to enter religious life. Her motivation was to spread the Kingdom of God here on earth.

As an only child, Joan initially was overwhelmed to be part of such a large group of postulants, and community life made her a bit uncomfortable. She also was very home sick and it took a while for her to adjust to community life. She remembers Sister Viola talking to the postulants and telling them they were free to go home if that was what they wanted. It was a turning point for Joan. Once she decided to stay, she didn’t question it again.

Having the opportunity to complete her college degree at Alverno, Joan felt well prepared as she went out on mission. Her happiest years were those she spent teaching. She remembers the summers working with migrants and African-American children in Chicago. She felt she was helping to work for justice in the world. She cherished working with children from many different cultures, including Mexican, Puerto Rican, Hmong, Vietnamese, African-American, and Caucasian.

A significant time in her ministry was when she chose to participate in spiritual direction with Sister Pat Kieler. Under Sister Pat’s direction, Joan grew in self-knowledge, understanding of others in her life, and gained a greater knowledge and love of God. It was an awesome and joyful experience that she still reflects upon and appreciates today.

Now, as she looks back on 70 years in community, Joan realizes what a gift it has been to have lived with faith-filled, dedicated, and caring women who influenced her life so deeply with love and joy. She often affectionately recalls the wonderful sister friends she has made during her lifetime and the good times that were shared at summer vacations at Pearl Lake, attending baseball games, playing cards, and laughing and talking together.

In reviewing her religious life, Joan recalls sharing a conversation with a very dear friend, Marianne, who had left our community. They had known each other for many years and Marianne said, “Joan, you were meant to be a School Sister of St. Francis.” And to that, Joan says, “Amen!” Happy Jubilee, Joan!