sister jean magdalene wyatt

May 5, 1927 - October 15, 2013

A gift in the lives of all who knew her

Sister Jean Magdalene “was always aware that God was taking her by the hand and leading her in life,” said her very dear friend, S. Pat Kelly.

Born May 30, 1927, to John Jackson and Magdalene (Wichmann) Wyatt in Omaha, Neb., Betty Jean was the tenth child in her family. She was very close to her mother who died when Betty was 12. Betty then lived with various siblings. By the time she was in junior high, her family moved near the Los Angeles area of California. Gradually her future plans included marriage and a large family but something held her back.

In her late 20s, family business brought Betty to St. Louis. She found work at St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf. After several years there, she became a Catholic. In 1961, close to her mid-30s, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. Most of the 64 women who entered with her were in their teens! She received the habit and the name S. John Magdalene in 1962.

A degree in speech correction from Fontbonne College in 1966 prepared S. John Magdalene to begin her career in their Speech and Language Department. This was followed by ministry as a multi-school speech therapist in St. Louis and then, in 1972, as secretary at two St. Louis grade schools. In 1974 she worked at the Diocesan Religious Education Office in Fairbanks, Alaska. While there she visited native villages—spent the night in huts of native women—traveled by dogsled and flew in a small plane over frozen territories where extreme temperatures froze the instruments.

S. Jean Magdalene was next drawn to hospital pastoral care. After completing studies at St. Mary’s Health Center in Richmond Heights, Mo., she enjoyed interacting with patients at St. Joseph Hospital in Kirkwood.

Ministry as speech therapist and school secretary at St. Louis Cathedral School in 1979 engaged her until 1982 when she became director of volunteer services at Nazareth Living Center. From 1986 to 1992, S. Jean Magdalene was secretary for Inter-Community Consultants in St. Louis. Then was secretary/treasurer’s assistant at our Congregational Center.

She retired into volunteer ministry at St. Joseph Academy Convent in 2003. For a short time before her death she lived at the Village at Nazareth until failing health brought her to Nazareth to minister in prayer and witness.

Some memories:

S. Jean Magdalene was mindful of others: “Almost daily at community prayer she prayed for pregnant mothers that they would have safe deliveries and healthy babies.” She “could tell a story about her life and we would sit spell-bound...Her story would come to life in all its detail so vividly that you felt you were there...”

A member of St. Gerard’s for 37 years, she dearly loved her 6:30 Mass group. She lent a hand to “working with out reach, fixing her monthly casserole for St. Patrick’s, collecting backpacks for Guardian Angels Settlement, turkeys for Hosea House, holding a helmet for Warm Up St. Louis...” “Jean was ever busy reading, creating beautiful [personalized, one of a kind] greeting cards...she radiated her love for Christ in all her dealings.” She was a “calm, dignified, serene presence with a grand sense of humor!” “...a gift in the lives of all who knew her...”

Jean Magdalene “had the special gift of honesty and was never shy about calling a spade a spade…. The way Jean faced death—head on—is the way she faced life: with courage, honesty, and deep, deep faith….” We “will truly miss Jean Magdalene’s smiling face.”

S. Helen Oates


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