Joan, born in University City, Missouri, raised with four sisters and four brothers, is the daughter of Rose Zeman Filla and Francis T. Filla.
Joan attended All Saints Elementary School, Mercy High School and Fontbonne University, concentrating in mathematics and philosophy. She did her graduate work in education and multiculturalism at Indiana University and Martin University.
Joan was received into the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1958 as Sister Rose Francis. As a Sister of St. Joseph, Joan had the opportunity to visit Columbia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and parts of Europe. The travels broadened her understanding of global realities and sensitized her to the richness of diversity.
Sister Joan worked in Missouri and Illinois as an elementary school teacher and supervised literacy programs in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. While in the South, she served as the provincial councilor for the southern region of the St. Louis province. Sister Joan returned to Missouri to become the director of social services at Hosea House. In that position, she collaborated with the public schools in the establishment of Hosea House’s Family Literacy Program. Then, Sister Joan founded Carondelet Family Literacy Program, which was an open door school for those who desired to get their high school certification.
On the side, Sister Joan has invested her time in the creation and success of the first Women’s Build for Habitat for Humanity in St. Louis. She is a founding board member of Marian Middle School, an alternative urban school for economically challenged girls located in South St. Louis, and served as a board member for Pillar Place, a congregational collaborative housing project.
Sister Joan’s commitment to literacy began in Alabama where she first realized the excellence of the education she had been given. She now shares her educational expertise with the students at Innovative Concept Academy, a school founded by Judge Jimmie Edwards and lives a ministry of presence in Ferguson, Missouri.