So it was, that on August 19th, 1929, a baby girl, the eighth child of Elizabeth and Joseph Quella was born into the world. Joan, often called Jo-Ann by her family was accidentally baptized Johann (!) at St. Mary's Church Menasha, WI! This accident only became a problem years later when Joan needed a passport to go on pilgrimage to Assisi.
Joan - a quiet child - grew up with her little brother Joe, now deceased for a year, and Gertrude her sister - older by two years. They played in their large garden and with their many cousins. When Joan was only 1 lyrs old, her mother died. at 50yrs of age. A very sad time! When Gertrude was starting 8th grade, and came down with polio, there was an immediate quarantine. Everyone had to leave home except her mom and older sister Catherine. When Gertrude recovered life went on as usual since a number of older sisters still lived at home, although one by one they got married. leaving the three younger children at home with their father. After a time, Gertrude. Joan and Joe went to live with their older. married sister. Catherine, who didn't have children as yet.
Joan and Gertrude attended St. Marys Grade School and High School, staffed by the SSND. Their grandmother lived across the street, and in the same house, upstairs lived the Ebben family, whose daughter was joining the SSSF and became Sister Angele. The family coaxed Gertrude to join the SSSF after she graduated HS, which she did.
After graduation Joan worked for two years in the Menasha Public Library. At this time she kept thinking about joining the convent - the Notre Dames. But Sr. Angele kept writing to her, asking her to join the SSSF's. So went the tug-of-war! Joan's next step was to go on retreat. While there, she was asked if she wanted to speak with the director, and if so she was to write him a note. Joan asked for an appointment, stating that she was thinking about going to the convent! Upon meeting, the director picked up her note and said Well, you DO have the pen-manship of a NUN!"
Joan attended a Reception Ceremony of the SSND's in Milwaukee, but it was the Profession Ceremony of her sister, Sr. Gertrude which struck her more, especially when the novices were lying prostrate on the floor covered by a large black pall and were told, "You are now dead to the world." Joan began to cry and left the chapel. Gradually, she realized that if she joined the Notre Dames, she would likely never see Gertrude again!
Still it took a couple more months before she wrote the letter to Mother Corona. The date was August 15th. She was to mail it on Monday on her way to work. She remembered the bus ride, her struggle to stand up and pull the cord to stop the bus, followed by the struggle to place the letter in the mailbox slot, and, finally to let it go - on its way!
During postulancy. Joan received news that her father had died in his sleep - at only 63yrs old. Both she and Gertrude went home for the funeral.
Joan received the religious name Sister de Lellis. Joan welcomed the novitiate and being treated more like an adult. At the beginning of her second year novitiate she was sent to work in the Registrar's Office in the Motherhouse. She was allowed to take three credit hours per semester during the three years she worked there.
In 1953, Alvemo was ready to open, and Joan was assigned to work in the Registrar's Office and continue taking 3 credit hours. On Labor Day weekend she went to Alverno. Busy opening boxes and trying to organize things in the new office, Joan was visited by a Sister who said "Sr. Jutta", the then Dean of Alverno, "wants to see you at once! And bring with you anything personal." Joan took her fountain pen, and set off for Sr. Jutta, who told her to go to Mother Corona right away. So, suitcase in hand, she rode to the Motherhouse. Mother Corona said, "I am sending you to Winfield to teach". Joan explained that she had had no college classes for teaching, but Mother said, "Don't worry. The sisters will help you. Do you have any questions?". "Yes. Mother, where is Winfield? "Mother replied "Illinois. Sr. Deodigna will give you the information that you need."
Joan recalled: "Train to Chicago — find the right tracks — take the commuter train — not running Labor Day holiday! — what to do? - had no phone number - a little money —the big phone book hanging in the telephone booth,— frantically looking up and finally find-ing the number of her married sister who lived in Techny, Ill. Cele and Vern had just arrived home from upper Wisconsin, yet they drove to Chicago Union Station, picked up Joan and then on to Winfield. NOW?!! No address of school/convent — so drive around and look for a church and steeple. Found it! They arrived at 9pm (bedtime for the sisters!). Two days later into the classroom with 53 second and third graders!
Joan also taught in St. Therese, Aurora, St. Matthew's Campbellsport, Stockbridge, Kiefer, Chilton, Hubertus, Cassville and California. At San Juan Capistrano she lived with the three Lochen sisters. Joan was close to her aunt Tina who lived in Bellflower, so every weekend she would drive out to help her aunt. Her next mission was St. Nazianz, WI.
After 27 years of teaching. Joan received a call asking her to serve as a secretary in the SSSF Leadership Office in Milwaukee! The community was moving into three Regions. So, in 1980. Joan became secretary to the first Regional Team. From 1987 until 2008 she served seven elected teams. After 25 years of Service she was ready to retire. Joan handled Minutes after Minutes. at the Committee meetings - which were relentless! Joan exhibited a calmness and an ability to cope with deadlines.
Joan was a very precise writer, very responsible, professional and organized and persistent in making sure that Minutes and documents were absolutely correct. Always she was very appreciative, kind and considerate. Perhaps what was most valued was that Joan was discreet that quality of being and speaking in such a way as to avoid offense or revealing private, personal information. What was confidential remained confidential! She was most trustworthy.
Last year in 2019 Joan celebrated her 70th Jubilee. She recalled that her heart was grateful for having been called to work with the Provincial Leaders and the other great secretaries: Sr. Margaret Buscher, Sylvia Godin and Ruth Gifford, as well as getting to know the vast number of our Sisters through Committee Meetings, Assemblies and whenever they visited the provincial offices. Joan was the "Queen of clean". Her apartment was the showcase for Maria Linden. A little known fact was that after each provincial assembly, Joan would personally clean every nametag — some one hundred or more!
In retirement, Joan volunteered at the Alfons Gallery, My Good Mourning Place, and Alverno School of Nursing for several years before enjoying plain retirement.
Joan felt a desire to stretch into new experiences. She joined Rosemary Rombalski for a time starting a Formation House on 28th St. She embraced social justice by traveling with our SSSF group to peacefully demonstrate at the Nuclear Power Site in Nevada. She joined one of the Franciscan Pilgrimages from Milwaukee, benefitting greatly by nurturing the Franciscan Spirit of simplicity. If Joan brought an item into her home. another item had to leave! Joan did not entertain clutter. When viewing my newly painted bedroom once, she commented "Well, there's nowhere to rest your eyes is there!" Joan got to know Patrick Vanderburgh, Director of the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. She accompanied Sister of St. Francis of Assisi, Sr. Jean D'Arc Omelian to various Justice sites on the south side.
In her eventual retirement Joan continued to enjoy the large family of Quella's and Swiontek's, however in recent years, her enjoyment was lessened by the deterioration of her hearing and eyesight.
Joan wrote "I believe that, through death, life is merely changed, not taken away, and that death need not be resisted with every possible means once the journey to eternity is begun. Dying is a natural part of life that should be made as comfortable as possible for the person and should not be unnecessarily prolonged when there is no hope of recovery. Not unduly prolonging the dying process affirms belief in eternal life."