Sister Joan was born in St. Louis, entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1948 and was received into the novitiate as Sister Mary Odelia in 1949. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Fontbonne College in 1959, and master’s degrees in English (1966) and spirituality (1980), both from St. Louis University.
Sister Joan taught in numerous grade schools in the Archdiocese of St. Louis in the 1950s: St. Edward, St. Mary’s School in Bridgeton, St. Rita and St. Thomas of Aquin. She then taught at Sacred Heart Grade School in Shawano, Wisconsin from 1959-1960.
Returning to St. Louis, she taught at Our Lady of Lourdes Grade School, St. Anthony High School and St. Joseph’s Academy from 1960 to 1971. She then began a year of study at St. Louis University in the Institute of Religious Formation as preparation to serve her CSJ community as the director of novices.
In 1976, Sister Joan began 23 years of ministry with the Institute of Religious Formation at St. Louis University. She found these years from 1976 to 1999 to be the most rewarding years of her life. Priests, brothers and sisters from around the world came to study in preparation for their future ministry in religious formation. She taught over 1,400 really dedicated priests, religious women and men who have left a deep impression on her heart and her life as a Sister of St. Joseph.
In addition to her teaching at St. Louis University, she was a spiritual director and retreat director from 1976 to the present. During these years, she also gave workshops as an Ira Progoff Journal consultant. From 2000 to 2004, she served on the staff of the St. Louis Religious Consultation Center as spiritual director.
In her spare time, Sister Joan enjoys writing stories about her dogs, Lucky and Freckles; their cousin, Lucy; and the Sacred Heart Rectory dog, Cora. In 2018, Sister Joan and her niece, Brenda Pitlyk Howsmon, published a book of children’s poetry The Rabbit Who Nibbled and Other Poems. Brenda’s illustrations and Sister Joan’s poems have found their way into the hearts and hands of many happy little children.
Sister Joan resides in Sacred Heart Parish in Florissant where she continues to be involved in the ministry of spiritual direction.