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Sister Frances Joan Baker celebrates 80 years as Sister of Providence

In the true spirit of the Christmas season, it’s been a “wonderful life” for Sister Frances Joan Baker.

Sister Frances Joan will celebrate her 80th anniversary during the Senior Jubilee today (Dec. 8), even though her actual anniversary was nearly a year ago. She entered the Congregation on Jan. 27, 1932.

“It really has been a wonderful life. I take it all just the way it comes. I am grateful for all of my blessings,” she said.

Sister Frances Joan, whose birth name is Rosemary, is a native of Washington, Ind. She grew up as the youngest of 10 children. Her father died from a heart attack when she was 6 months old. It was during her second year of high school as she was helping a sister water flowers that the question came from Sister Anna.

“Rosemary, have you ever thought about being a sister?” Sister Anna asked.

“Never,” was Rosemary’s reply.

“Well, start thinking about it,” Sister Anna suggested.

Several days passed before Rosemary talked with her mother. She said to her mother that Sister Anna thought Rosemary was good enough to be a sister. Later, the Congregation’s general superior, Sister Mary Raphael Slattery, happened to visit the sisters in Washington and she had a conversation with Rosemary’s mother. Not long after, young Rosemary was on her way to becoming a Sister of Providence.

Sister Frances Joan taught elementary school for 52 years. She loved teaching religion and reading to youngsters, and she probably could teach geography as well, having taught in Richmond, Vincennes, Indianapolis, Washington and Fort Wayne in Indiana; Chelsea, Mass.; Evanston and Chicago, Ill.; and Burlington and Wilson, N.C.

“I taught all of the grades, but I always wanted to go back to first grade,” she remembered. “Children didn’t go to kindergarten then. They were so fresh and so anxious to learn. What I said meant so much to them. They were able to read a story by the end of the year.”

Along with sisters who are celebrating 60, 70 and 75 years in the Congregation, Sister Frances Joan is the lone 80-year celebrant.

“I’d just as soon skip it. The daily Mass is an enjoyment for me. I love our daily Mass,” she said.

On Saturday, Dec. 1, she had a visit from a former pupil, and she still corresponds with another.

“It’s been a wonderful life, wonderful people to live with, a wonderful home,” she said.


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Dave Cox

Dave Cox was media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence for many years. Prior to his work with the sisters, he spent over 30 years in newspaper newsrooms.

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