Sister Joan Frame (formerly Sister Ann Pierre)
“Then the ruler will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take you inheritance, prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The ruler will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
— A reading from Matthew 25:34-40
After reading Sister Joan Frame’s file from archives with some newspaper clippings and ministry forms, a choice of scripture reading for her commentary was no longer in doubt. Sister Joan lived the word you just heard – as a teacher, pastoral minister and after retirement, serving as a volunteer, said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Joan Frame, who died Tuesday, Aug. 25. She was 86 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 68 years.
June Joan Frame was born on June 1, 1929, in Richmond, Indiana, to Harry and Agnes Knauber Frame, one of two girls. She was baptized at St. Mary Parish and attended the grade school there. I am told that Joan was the tomboy and Barbara, her sister, was the lady of the house. Besides being remembered as a tomboy, Sister Ann Marie Boyce, her classmate, revealed that she loved horses and rode them and that, in her later years, Joan wanted to be a priest. Who knew!
She went to Providence Juniorate at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for high school, graduating in 1947. In January of that year, she entered the Sisters of Providence and was given the religious name of Sister Ann Pierre. She was received into the novitiate on August 15, 1947. Her first and perpetual profession of vows were also on that date, in 1949 and 1954, respectively.
In a way, Joan seemed destined to be here, for she sent to archives a postcard of the St. Anne Chapel, which her mother had received in 1910 from a cousin, when the mother was just 7 years old!
To prepare herself as a teacher, Sister Joan earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in the same field from Ball State University.
She taught in parochial school classrooms for 38 years, all grades from first- to eighth- and mostly in Indiana, leaving the state to teach three years in Halethorpe, Maryland, and one year in Chicago. Some of those teaching years must have been quite interesting … grades one, two, three and four the same year at Annunciation, Brazil; grades three and four and principal for two years in New Castle, followed by four more years as principal, but this time teaching grades seven and eight. And we have it on the authority of one of her students – I would judge maybe a fifth-grader – whose note I found in her file, along with a little drawing of their classroom, who called Joan, “the best teacher I have ever had,” as well as the world’s greatest teacher (with “greatest” underlined several times).
These nearly 40 years in the classroom were followed by parish ministry in Indianapolis, for two years as pastoral associate at St. Simone, and as a pastoral minister for nine years at Saints. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, from 1989 to 1998. After a one-year sabbatical, she returned to Indianapolis and served as a GED and ELS instructor at the Hispanic Education Center. Beginning in 2002 and until 2006, she served as a volunteer in two Indianapolis schools and parishes. If you are counting, that’s 57 years in active ministry.
Sister Joan returned to the motherhouse in 2006 and continued in various volunteer capacities until about two years ago when her health did not cooperate with her determination.
Interestingly, all the information in Joan’s archives file related to her parish ministry at Cathedral, in the near downtown area of Indianapolis, where one of her responsibilities was to direct the breakfast program, which fed the people in the neighborhood who were poor, homeless, unemployed or hungry for whatever reason. In addition, she was responsible for the RCIA program and a Bible discussion group and took Communion once a week to residents in seven nursing homes and to many parish shut-ins.
Of her role, she said, “I say to those who come, God, through us (the church) cares about you and wants you to be happy.” And about them, she said, “They help me know what is really important in life, which is caring and sharing with others. We want to make them feel at home, like it is their church – and it is.”
A newspaper story referred to Joan as “A living witness to the Providence of God.” In that same story, Father Rick Ginther, associate pastor at the time, had this to say: “Sister Joan is the quiet rock who steadies us all at Saints Peter and Paul.” She is “a constant voice for our Church and parish mission to the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, the shunned and the marginal.”
And when she was leaving the parish after nine years, he said, “There will be a ‘holy’ hole in our lives at Cathedral.” A resident in the Delaware Health Care facility told her, “You are a godsend. You are a pillar of strength to me.”
As director of the breakfast program, she worked with many volunteers from all over the city. If age or illness prevented their continuing in the ministry, Joan would periodically visit them. She was quoted as saying, “A lot of them have been good friends who worked with us. We don’t want to forget all they have done.”
When Joan retired to the motherhouse, she continued in works which showed her passion for justice. On a form she filed out about her ministries in 2011, she indicated that she visited an inmate on death row, volunteered in the Providence Food Pantry and tutored at the 150 house. In the blanks related to “other activities,” she noted that she took hours in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, went to daily Mass and made a daily visit to Our Lady of Providence Shrine to pray for families. At the end of that sheet, after all of those notations, she wrote, “A walker and scoliosis limits what I can do.”
What appeared to many of us as stubbornness in her delayed decisions to move from Owens Hall to Providence, from there to Lourdes and then to Mother Theodore Hall, was more likely related to her desire to keep serving the least of her brothers and sisters.
She now has the inheritance promised her. And as quickly as Joan left us – a spell at the breakfast table, and dying 10 minutes later in her bedroom – we can only surmise that she offered no resistance to that final move into eternity!
Rest in peace, Joan!
Funeral services for Sister Joan took place Monday, August 31, and Tuesday, September 1.
A wake took place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., Monday, August 31, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m., in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
Mass of Christian Burial was at 11 a.m., on Tuesday, Sept. 1.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Joan in the comment section below.
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Sr. Joan was my 4th grade teacher at All Saints Catholic School. She was very kind and I am very blessed to have known her. My thoughts and prayers are with all of her family and friends. May she rest peacefully in heaven.
Sr. Joan and I worked together at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. She was a cornerstone to so many of us.
She was so very much loved by the members of SSPP. Her tireless hours of working at the Cathedral soup kitchen was astounding. Wishing her Godspeed on her journey home!