Thursday, November 3, 2022
Mass of the Resurrection, 10:30 a.m.
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana
Visitors are welcome; please adhere to mask and social distance guidelines while in the church.
You may view the livestreamed Mass on YouTube.
Read the memories shared at Sister Joan's funeral.
Sister Joan Mader, CSC
(Sister Miriam Alma)
August 3, 1941–October 24, 2022
We share news of the death of Sister Joan Mader, CSC, who died at 8:56 a.m. on October 24, 2022, in St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, Mishawaka, Indiana. Sister Joan entered the Congregation from Evergreen Park, Illinois, on August 22, 1959. Her initial profession of vows took place on August 15, 1962.
Please join us in prayer for Sister as we renew our faith in the resurrected Jesus and strengthen our hope that all the departed will be raised to eternal life.
“Un día a la vez” was Sister Joan Mader’s guidepost as she chose to live only “one day at a time.” Her commitment to the Hispanic community and the poor was a steady factor in her life. Sister Joan was confident that a faithful God would accompany her through all seasons, even as she had companioned others.
Joan Marilyn Mader was born in the summer of 1941, on August 3, in Chicago, Illinois, when Europe was embroiled in the Second World War. Her father, Nicholas A. Mader, migrated with his family from Czechoslovakia when he was 2 years old in 1911, escaping two future world wars. He eventually became an architect for the federal government, working 30 years for the General Services Administration in Chicago. Her mother, Stephanie E. (Swanis) Mader, a native of Chicago, bore another child, G. Nicholas Mader. Nick died in 2008. The pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Evergreen Park, a suburb of Chicago, considered the parents exemplary in their Catholic faith.
While the parents may have been good Catholics, when their high school-aged daughter shared her intentions of entering the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Joan was frustrated with their response. They advised her, “Wait and see,” even though they knew the Holy Cross sisters. The sisters staffed the parish elementary school where Joan had graduated. Her parents relented as she neared graduation from nearby Mother McAuley Liberal Arts School in 1959. “As I recall 1959, the year I entered Holy Cross, I can’t help laughing ... . As I matured, my idea of working in an orphanage alternated with having a large family of my own.” She noted that “eventually I sorted out my call to Holy Cross.”
Joan arrived at the motherhouse to begin her formation at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana, with strong recommendations. Upon reception of the holy habit on June 10, 1960, she received the name Sister Miriam Alma, both names associated with the Blessed Mother. The fluted cap and traditional habit added to her natural 5’10” stature. Sister Miriam Alma looked every bit the refined, respectful young woman, docile to the inspirations of grace, described by Sister Mary Sheila (O’Keefe), CSC. Soon after her perpetual profession in 1967, she was appointed to a vocation committee. In biblical language, her “comely appearance” made her a walking vocation poster.
While taking classes to prepare herself for secondary education, Sister Eleanor O’Kane, CSC, saw her potential and suggested she major in Spanish. And so she did, graduating from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, with her bachelor’s degree in 1964. Her first assignments were teaching Spanish and Latin in Indiana high schools: St. Mary’s in Michigan City, now known as Marquette Catholic High School, and Bishop Noll in Hammond, also known as Bishop Noll Institute. During that time, she returned to her baptismal name when customs changed, and she became Sister Joan Mader. Sister M. Margaretta (Reppen), CSC, had written that her former student had excellent character with “a disposition and temperament that can adapt to the religious life.” Early on Joan learned to adapt, one day at a time.
She loved high school students, and they loved her. She was a creative and devoted teacher. In 1973, the pastor at St. Patrick’s Parish in nearby East Chicago, where she was living, encouraged her to teach English and Spanish as second languages to adults. “I enjoyed sharing language skills with people who were so eager to learn. I began doing home visiting … . My world began to expand as I shared people’s homes.” By 1976, the Congregation was adapting as well, considering moving from traditional institutional ministries to home missions in Texas and the South. “I was fascinated by the possibility of using my Spanish instead of just teaching it.” It was a difficult decision to move from the familiar Midwest to the South, farther away from family, friends and a culture where she had not been a stranger. By this time Sister Joan had earned a Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, in 1972, and a master’s degree in religious studies from Incarnate Word College in San Antonio, Texas, in 1986.
From 1976 to 1987, she was fully immersed in parish life in Texas Hispanic communities in Austin, Cameron and San Saba. San Saba was rural, isolated and the most challenging, where neither Mexicans nor Catholics were welcomed in the small towns. She gradually overcame her native shyness and grew more self-confident as a parish administrator, working in collaboration with clergy and laity. Sister Joan was especially fond of fostering vocations among Holy Cross seminarians, brother candidates, young sisters and members of the Holy Cross Associates with whom she shared ministry. “I’ve been in contact with many young people who are searching for direction in their lives.” She was passionate about praying that others, with their simple gifts, would be led to become home missionaries.
In 1987, the year of her silver jubilee, Sister Joan was elected regional superior for the Sisters of the Holy Cross in the Southern Region, setting up her office in Austin, Texas. Subsequently she was elected in 1989 to the General Council during Sister Catherine O’Brien’s, CSC, first administration, during which she was the liaison with the Holy Cross Associates and the CSC Intercongregational Hispanic Ministry Committee. After five years as one of seven councilors, Joan took a sabbatical and then crossed the border into Mexico. At the invitation of the local bishop, the Congregation began to explore parish ministry, beginning in Nuevo León. She was there from 1995 to 2014. Several religious vocations resulted from her pastoral work with a team of other Holy Cross sisters.
Shortly after Joan complained of feeling very tired and could not see herself extending herself much further, she learned how gravely ill she was. Taking one day at a time, she underwent treatment, enjoying the support of her friends and local community, first at Bethany Convent and eventually in Rosary Convent, at the motherhouse. She had a short return to relative health and was a welcome presence at community worship, but was unable to overcome the condition and its complications. After a beautiful autumn weekend, she died at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, Mishawaka, Indiana, on October 24, 2022, a week prior to Día de los Muertos. Sisters and friends will spend the feasts of All Saints Day and All Souls Day remembering Sister Joan’s beautiful spirit, in communion with all whom we have loved.
We invite you to donate to the Ministry With the Poor Fund in Sister’s name.
—Written by Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC