Sister Joan Gray died on October 25, 2019, at Saint Joseph Villa , and was buried at Saint Joseph Villa on October 29, 2019. Siblings, Joan, Jane, and John, were all raised in St. Hugh Parish. Later, Joan attended Little Flower High School, and after working a few years, entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph at the mature age of 22.
As S. Irma Dolorata, Joan began her educational ministry at St. Helena School in Philadelphia. In addition to her home city, Joan served in the dioceses of Allentown, Camden, and Harrisburg. She taught in elementary school for many years, and with her degree in Library Science, eventually became the school librarian at St. Ambrose School. In 2002, Joan moved to the Motherhouse and became a part of the St. Joseph Guild staff, where she worked until she retired to the Villa in 2011.
Among her many positive traits, this upbeat religious taught many of her companions the game of pinochle. Her laid-back personality manifested itself in her taciturn demeanor. S. Lourdes Kennedy spoke of Joan’s obsession with the Phillies and the fact that she did not want to be distracted when they were playing. Once Lourdes told Joan that the team needed a manager, and she retorted that they would not listen to a woman. Later when Joan rarely spoke, Lourdes gave her the same message, and Joan opened her eyes and said, “How?”
Joan’s devotion to her parents never wavered. She drove her father’s car from Visitation to their home, and even though the auto was old and battered, it got her to her destination until the battery was stolen. Advised by the pastor to purchase one that she thought was “hot,” Joan indignantly refused at first, but she never revealed how her father’s car got its new battery.
Joan’s transition to the Villa was not always smooth. At times she was determined to leave as long as she was accompanied by her ceramic cat. Nonetheless, she grew more accepting and became a favorite on the fourth floor.
Joan’s final days were lived in mystery, and with her deteriorating health, no one knew who or what she recognized. However, the love of her family and the sisters who cared for her was evident as she said her “long goodbye.” This was the final commitment that Joan made to her community and her God. Reunited with her parents and her brother, John, this faithful religious will enjoy eternal rest and continue to help the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the Phillies.