Sister Joann Quinkert
Updated August 2022
In some ways, Sister Joann Quinkert may have a parallel experience with Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of- the-Woods.
When Mother Theodore came to the United States in 1840, she found very humble living conditions. There was no convent. A dense forest surrounded her. Resources were limited or non-existent. A mission to serve God’s people waited to be fulfilled.
When Sister Joann arrived in the Appalachia region of southeastern Kentucky in the early 1980s, she and a companion were pioneers in the Ministry Resource Appalachian Project. Actually, there was no project yet. Resources were limited or non-existent. A small mobile home eventually was secured for living quarters.
“There were many inconveniences, but there were really happy times,” Sister Joann said. “Our lives were touched by other women — women who were materially poor, who had little education and whose lives seemed almost always in crisis.”
Sister Joann believes her experiences of working with people who were economically and educationally challenged, the voiceless as she would say, was rewarding. “Truly, I was gifted and enriched by the women who had so little but who treasured family and faith more than material wealth.
“I often thought of Mother Theodore and how she adapted to circumstances in her community living as she reached out to meet the needs of the day,” Sister Joann said. “I learned to live simply.”
One of Mother Theodore’s missions was to comfort the sick, as it was for Sister Joann. She assisted AIDS patients and those afflicted with HIV while she ministered in the Selma, Ala., area.
Mother Theodore also founded a Congregation of women religious that has withstood time and many challenges. Sister Joann is thankful for the Sisters of Providence, and she embraces the legacy.
“I was taught by Sisters of Providence from first grade through college, except for my first two years of high school. At a very early age, I was attracted to the sisters. I always admired their dedication to teaching and forming young minds and spirits,” she said.
“My father’s sister was a Sister of Providence, and I have fond memories of visiting her at Saint Mary-of-the- Woods during the summer and seeing and meeting so many sisters. That was always exciting,” she remembered.
The call came naturally.
“When I entered community at age 17, being a religious sister was the only way a woman could dedicate herself to service in the Church. I felt called to give the best that I could to God. Religious life seemed to be the answer for me,” she said.
The bond has grown stronger with time.
“Community provided for me the intellectual and spiritual training for the foundation of my life of love, mercy and justice. I have had opportunities to expand my horizons and use my talents in a variety of ministries. I stay because my journey as a Sister of Providence fills my spirit with the energy to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with my God,” Sister Joann said.
She appreciates the support and opportunities she has enjoyed.
“I have been gifted by companionship and collaboration with many sisters who have inspired, challenged and enriched me in many ways; by being challenged to be a part of an effort to create a more just world and to live in right relationship; by God’s love and life which are always full of mystery and signs of her presence; and to be called a Sister of Providence because there is a vitality and aliveness in the Congregation that challenges us,” Sister Joann said.
She cherishes the support offered by her family when she entered the Congregation and the strength she has gained from other sisters.
“My sisters have been an inspiration and models for me. They have been there to nudge me a little and give me the courage to take risks and sometimes to reach beyond my comfort zone to take a stand for what is right,” she said. “The most important aspect of community living, no matter where or with whom I have lived, has been the prayer life. We share with one another and bring to our God what we feel is broken in our world and what we want to celebrate in our lives. It is often in the spirit of prayer that we call one another to what is the best in each of us.”
Sister Joann has been called to various ministries in her 55 years in the Congregation. She served as a teacher and principal for more than 20 years, and as a pastoral associate, hospital chaplain, outreach worker, adult education teacher; in rural pastoral ministry, social ministry and in volunteer service as librarian at Will County Adult Detention Center near Chicago.
food: home cookin’
flower: mountain laurel
recreation: hiking in mountain forests
quote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King
heroine: Rosa Parks
saints: my parents
pizza topping: veggie
scripture: “This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
course in school: math
least favorite course: writing (anything I had to write)
childhood activity: playing ball with the kids down the street and alley
My best friend says I’m … fun to be with.
If I weren’t an SP I’dd be … missing all of the spiritual and ministry opportunities that have made my life.