As a young novice, Sister Joan Grace, R.S.M., wasn’t even sure she wanted to be a nun. She admits even close mentors suggested she might be a better wife and mother, but she also says the Lord knew better.
“God’s plan for me was bigger than the plans I had for myself,” shared Sister Grace. She is the fifth of seven children and “graced the Irish soil,” as she says, in Portoe, Ireland. She grew up saying the rosary every night and feeding the many animals on her family’s farm early every morning.
She admits to growing up in Florida too as she came so young, finding her new world somewhat daunting. Sister Grace said the words of the Sisters of Mercy’s foundress, Mother Catherine McAuley, gave her strength, “while we place all our confidence in God, we must act as if all depended on our exertion.” So she gave it her all, earning three degrees in her 42 years as a teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Rockledge. There she counseled and guided children while winning numerous accolades.
“Seeing the children achieve and work hard and helping those who found the subject difficult was a joy,” she said. She has particularly enjoyed helping them emotionally and spiritually. “To meet them out in the world and see how they have coped, learned and become such wonderful citizen is especially rewarding. I always believed I was educating the CEO’s of the future.”
These days, Sister Grace can be found in Brevard County hospitals ministering to the sick just as she has for the past 12 years. Patients simply dial “AMEN” on the phones at Rockledge or Melbourne Regional Medical Centers and she’s on the way with much-needed prayer. “Being available for family and people who are sick, being there with them, praying for them – it’s been such a blessing,” she said. “I bring the Lord with me to the hospital.”
She said daily Mass and reception of the Eucharist help her bring “positivity” and hope to her patients. “That is my lifeline,” she explains. The “daily bread” she receives is passed on to help others. Her cheerfulness is also catching. Sister Grace is quick to greet you with a big grin and a “God bless you.” It’s something the hospital staff loves and learns from as well. “My philosophy is to smile as much as possible through the day,” she insisted. “I am just so happy to be a nun now and being able to serve God through all these people. The Lord has been extraordinarily good to me.”
Sister Joan Grace is celebrating her diamond jubilee – 60 years in her religious vocation. Marking the occasion is a Mass at 11 a.m. on Aug. 12 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 565 Stadium Parkway, Viera, FL 32940. A reception will follow in the church’s Holy Cross Hall.
By Jennifer Drow, Florida Catholic correspondent – July 31, 2018