Sister Jean Ann Daniel
“Who shall find a valiant woman? Who shall find a woman of strength? A pearl of great price is she. Her friends all have confidence in her And benefit from her wise counsel. She initiates good, not evil, every day of her life. She opens her heart to the needy; she is generous with the poor, yet she does not neglect her family’s needs nor priorities of her own. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come. She often speaks with wisdom, and teaches in a kindly way. Those who are close to her praise her, her family extol her. Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all. Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her a reward for her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates” — Old Testament Reading – Proverbs 31:11-24
I choose to open this eulogy to Sister Jean Ann with a reading from Proverbs – words that speak to her wisdom, her generous heart, her every kindly teaching, her easy laughter, her heart for the poor and needy, said Providence Associate Donna Watzke in her commentary for Sister Jean Ann Daniel, who died Saturday, Oct. 25, at the age of 83. She was a Sister of Providence for 65 years.
Sister Jean Ann Daniel, known as Sister Pat in her family, was born on Jan. 18, 1931, in New Albany, Indiana. Her parents were Tom and Viola Daniel. Mr. Daniel was on the fire force for 41 years, 16 of them as the New Albany Fire Chief. Her mother, Viola, was already busy raising three other children: Harry, Sis and Tom Jr., when Pat came along.
Sister Jean Ann grew up in Holy Trinity Parish, her home being just across the street from the church. She loved that parish with a passion and shed many tears when the decision was made to close it. She attended Holy Trinity grade school, went by street car to Presentation Academy in Louisville for her first two years of high school, and then finished high school at Providence Juniorate before entering the Community.
It was at Holy Trinity Parish where she met Father Carey, who, she says, was the most influential person in creating in her an awareness of a vocation to religious life. He was their basketball and softball coach. Jean Ann would proudly tell you that her team, The Comets, won every tournament and the Louisville championship under his training and discipline. She also reminds us that in the 1960s, their softball team was not only interdenominational, but also multi-racial – something quite rare at that time in New Albany and in Louisville. And finally, she said I could tell you that she received an award for best sportsmanship!
Jean Ann entered the Sisters of Providence after high school in 1949. She taught first- and second-grades her entire teaching career: St. Agnes and Our Lady of Mercy in Chicago, St. Joseph’s in Terre Haute, Corpus Christi in Evansville, and Holy Family in New Albany. I lived with Jean Ann when she was both teacher and principal at Corpus Christi School in Evansville. I remember how the people loved her. Jean Ann knew everybody by name and 40 years later, she still remembered their names. She’d ask about their children and their health. She solved problems in a way that every parent walked away feeling respected. She had a kind word for every child. She laughed heartily at their antics. And she had a unique ability to see humor in the simplest of happenings. She was fun to be with.
In 1993, after 42 years of teaching, she left the classroom and took on the full care of her mother, whose crippling arthritis had made her completely chair bound. This was no easy task, but as often as I went to visit Jean Ann, I never heard her complain. Her mother lived to be 102 years of age and I do believe that Jean Ann’s vigilance gave her mother a few extra years! Her ministry to the aged continued for several years after that. Taking communion to the homebound and the hospitalized became her new outreach. During this time, the multiple illnesses began to take their toll on Jean Ann and she knew it was time for her to come home to St. Mary-of-the-Woods.
Even here at home, however, she continued to reach out to her sisters. Playing music with her tabletop record player for the sisters, sitting with a sister more ill than herself, moving her wheelchair over to a sister who seemed to be alone after supper, looking out for her roommate who tended to wander, always expressing gratitude to the staff, by name, for their services, joking with the staff and asking about their children, always having doggie treats ready when the service dogs were brought for a visit … Jean Ann was truly a pearl of great price. One of our elderly sisters said Jean Ann spreads happiness and cheer wherever she is.
She loved the song, “Veni, Sponsa Christi,” Come, spouse of Christ, receive the crown I have prepared for you. Then she’d say, “I sure hope He’s ready for me.” It was that kind of wit that endeared her to so many people.
I asked Jean Ann what she would like me to say in her eulogy and she was quite ready with her reply. To her Sisters of Providence Community, she wants to say, “Thanks for putting up with me. Thanks to my friends in Community for your kindness and loving support along my life journey.”
She specifically mentioned the Bonner sisters, who talked to her by telephone every single day just to check in with her, and she is ever grateful to her band member, Sister Joann Quinkert, who grew up with her in New Albany, was on the same basketball team, and who was also her health care representative during her last years of life.
In the waning days of Jean Ann’s life, Sister Joann attended to her needs and stayed faithfully with her – day and night. To her family, she says, “I love you all and in heaven, I will never forget you.” To her cousins and to her nieces and nephews, she said, “You mean so much to me.”
She did not want to forget her friends from Corpus Christi Parish in Evansville. She loved Corpus Christi with a passion. It was at Corpus Christi that I first met Jean Ann. It was my first teaching assignment and my first experience of community life away from the Woods. Jean Ann just made it so simple for me to step into this next stage of my life journey, and we have been friends ever since.
Jean Ann’s life was not always easy, but it was determined. She did not lose sight of needing our Lord. She lived a life knowing that God loved her and took care of her needs. She lived faithfully for 65 years as a Sister of Providence. She gave her all. Even in her dying, she continued to think of others first – to say thank you, to make a funny remark, to tell someone to go home and get some rest. But she grew tired and she heard God’s final call.
A Wake took place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., on Thursday, Oct. 30, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m., at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
Mass of Christian Burial was at 11 a.m., on Friday, Oct. 31.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Jean Ann in the comments section below.
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