Sister Joan Zlogar (formerly Sister Joseph Bernard)
Today, we celebrate the life of our Sister Joan Zlogar – a woman who embodied childlike enthusiasm, a sense of wonder for the marvels of creation, openness to a wide variety of people, an ability to welcome friend or stranger, a commitment to justice and a deep, always evolving spiritual life, said Sister Denise Wilkinson in her commentary for Sister Joan Zlogar, formerly Sister Joseph Bernard, who passed away on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 90 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 70 years.
Sister Denise continued: In short, Joan was a woman who “humbled herself like a child.” She lived her life as one always moving toward the fullness of life within the kin-dom of God.
Born in Joliet, Ill., on April 10, 1930, to John Zlogar and Helen Stiglin Zlogar, Joan was one of three children. She is preceded in death by her brother, John. Our prayer and sympathy are with Jack’s wife Nancy and their children: John, Doug, Brad and Sally.
We also hold in prayer Joan’s brother Jim and his wife Katie. We include in those prayers Jim and Katie’s four sons, Joan’s nephews: Jim, Dan and Dan’s wife Kelly, Tom and his wife Kristin, John and his wife Denise. A great delight of Joan’s were Jim and Katie’s grandchildren: Aiden, Charles, Hazel, Tom, Anna and Rose.
Joan didn’t encounter the Sisters of Providence in her growing up years in Joliet. She attended St. Raymond Grade School and St. Francis Academy, neither of which was staffed by the Sisters of Providence. After graduating from high school, Joan worked for two years at a brokerage firm in Chicago.
How did she come to know the Sisters of Providence? Her good friend from first grade on, Rosemary Lux, had a priest uncle, Msgr. Joseph Lux, who introduced her to us and recommended that she get to know our Congregation. Joan followed his advice and, to our good fortune, entered on July 22, 1950. So Providentially, we are celebrating her life on the 70th anniversary of entrance into the Congregation.
She professed first vows in 1953, and made final profession of vows in 1958.
Joan earned her undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and her master’s degree from Indiana University in Business Education. She also earned an administrator’s license for secondary schools from Ball State University.
Joan’s 30-year career in education, as both teacher and administrator, took her to schools in Loogootee and Washington in Indiana, and in Washington D.C. She also ministered in Chicago and River Grove, Ill. In addition, Joan served as treasurer in the Sisters of Providence St. Gabriel Province. She was assistant treasurer for the Cenacle Sisters in Chicago.
In 1997, Joan began her ministry as the planned giving manager in the Office of Mission Advancement. After retiring from Mission Advancement, Joan’s volunteer ministries included serving as the Sisters of Providence liaison to the alumnae of St. Columbkille High School in Chicago; as receptionist at the Wabash Valley Health Center and at Union Hospital, both here in Terre Haute.
To say that Joan was a “people person,” would be the understatement of all understatements. No matter what or where, Joan enjoyed and valued people.
As the new principal of Guerin High School in River Grove, Ill., Joan was interviewed by the River Grove Messenger newspaper. Joan described her personal goals as principal in this way: “My door will be open to any student who wants to come in and introduce themselves. I’m going to classrooms, to club activities. I want to know them on a first-name basis … I want them to be the best they can be. … I see the principal as a master teacher. I don’t have all the answers. But I can look for them with the other teachers.”
Joan’s 15 years of service in our Mission Advancement Office allowed her to do two of her favorite things – travel and visit with new and longtime friends of the Sisters of Providence.
Joan made 50-60 personal visits to donors each year of her ministry in the department. One of our sisters remarked that all the packing and unpacking, the frequent travels via airplane or car, being away from home for long stretches at a time never seemed to bother Joan. Visiting people, getting to know their stories, enjoying their company far out-weighed what others might have found a burden.
Serving as the Sisters of Providence liaison to the Alumnae Club of St. Columbkille High School delighted Joan. Early in her teaching career, she had taught at this all-girls high school. Perhaps that’s why Joan always referred to these alums as “the girls” – “the girls do all the work” … “the planning meeting with the girls was so fun and we got a lot done” … “after the annual luncheon, the girls sent such a generous donation for our Retirement Fund.” Yes – Joan loved and enjoyed “the girls” very much.
When Joan worked as assistant treasurer for the Cenacle Sisters, she met and became a very good friend of a volunteer, Dave Hubbard. When Dave was very ill, Joan visited him in the hospital. There, she met for the first time, Dave’s wife Sandy and their daughter Colleen. The only other time Joan met Sandy and Colleen was at Dave’s funeral liturgy.
Sandy described what happened after that liturgy. “Not long after (the funeral), Joan called and asked if I wanted to go for a walk and then dinner and it went on from there. Over time, she became a wonderful friend to Colleen and me. I have always felt Dave ‘sent’ her to us; but what prompted her to pick up the phone at that time and call me, I never thought to ask.”
Sandy describes what so many of us know about Joan. Once you were a friend of Joan’s, you were a friend for life.
Joan’s love for people also manifested itself in an array of social justice issues. She helped operate a parish food pantry, served on the board of a credit union offering low-interest loans for persons with limited incomes, was a member of the League of Women Voters and served as chairperson of the Social Concerns Committee of the Sisters Senate of Washington D.C.
One of Joan’s social outreach actions included participating in weekend journaling experience with residents of the Women’s Prison in Indianapolis. The group included four non-residents and 22 inmates.
These are Joan’s words summarizing her experience: “Once you’ve been inside those walls for a day, you appreciate your freedom in a new way … (As we were leaving one night), a resident said how much she would like to be going out to get a pizza. You understand what confinement is really like as you leave her and are accompanied to the gate by a guard.”
Several sisters commented on Joan’s love of nature, particularly her fondness for bird watching. Her good friend Sister Merry Marcotte (RIP) and she had delightful times in the Blue Ridge Mountains, alert to the possibilities of spotting a variety of birds.
Two of our sisters credit Joan with expanding their perspective on creation by introducing them to the hobby of birdwatching, to paying attention to the beauty and detail of every bird they saw.
Many common traits were mentioned when people talked about Joan: Wonderful sense of humor; a wonderful laugh; loved having a good time; never met a stranger; good listener. She was a prayerful woman, committed to doing all that would enrich her faith life … reading, workshops, retreats, spiritual direction.
Indeed Joan will be remembered for all of this, but Joan may best be remembered for all the humor and laughter she brought us just by being her affectionate, gullible, childlike self.
When Joan was a young sister, our Sister Mary Slattery (RIP) called her “the patron saint of the obvious.” There are a million examples of this but, by way of example, let me share this exchange she and I had. It went like this: Me – “Joan, I’m going to get some ice cream. Do you want some?” Joan – “Oh. From the freezer?”
Joan hated to cook and made no bones about it. When it was her night to cook, she made it clear she wanted no one in the kitchen with her. If some poor soul wandered in, she’d say in a firm voice: “Don’t talk to me. I’m cooking.” And she meant it.
She did like to grocery shop, however. Because Joan’s gullible, childlike nature was well known in that local community, one of the sisters put on the shopping list “black cabbage and purple cabbage.” The sister who played this dirty trick on Joan told me: “Of course, she clearly didn’t find the black cabbage so she asked the produce person where it was. He grinned and said, ‘Lady, I think someone is just teasing you.’” Joan being Joan enjoyed the joke as much as her housemates did. She could always laugh at herself.
This same sister of the cabbage joke also shared this anecdote: Joan and our Sister Rita Clare were members of the same local community.
Many Sisters of Providence know that Rita Clare loves to clean. Whatever she cleans is the cleanest of the clean. Whenever Rita Clare had been away and was due to come back home, Joan would spray Pledge in the air so that Rita would think she had cleaned. Only Joan could believe that Rita wouldn’t spot the dust.
Indeed, Sister Joan Zlogar enriched the lives of many. She was true to herself, true to her life as a Sister of Providence, true to her life as a woman of the Gospel.
Perhaps Joan’s own words best summarize her way of living into the kin-dom of God.
In 2012, our Archives Department sent each sister a form about our ministries. This question was asked: “Any other comments or information that would complete your story for the future?”
Joan wrote, “Now that I am retired from full-time employment, I know that any future volunteer work has to include being with people. I feel I have something to offer to others, and, in turn, I feel blessed by them.”
Thank you, Joan, for your lifetime of offering your unique self to so many. We hope you always knew you were a blessing to us.
Because of the way you lived your life, we better understand the truth of these words Jesus spoke to his disciples:
I give praise to you, God of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike.”
Joan, may you now enjoy, with childlike wonder, the inexplicable beauty of the fullness of God’s life and love.
Funeral services for Sister Joan took place on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.
A Wake took place at 10:30 a.m., followed by Funeral Outside Mass at 11 a.m. Only essential personnel were present.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Joan in the comment section below.
Sister Joan Zlogar (formerly Sister Joseph Bernard)
In Illinois: Teacher, St. Mark, Chicago (1953); Teacher, St. Columbkille High School, Chicago (1953-57); Teacher, Marywood, Evanston (1957-58); Teacher, St. Columbkille, Chicago (1958-66); Assistant Principal, Director of Student Affairs, Mother Theodore Guerin High School, River Grove (1969-73); Teacher, Chairperson of Business Department, Josephinum High School, Chicago (1986-87); Principal, Mother Theodore Guerin High School, River Grove (1987-91); Assistant to Province Treasurer, Cenacle Midwest Provincialate, Chicago (1992-97).
In Washington, D.C.: Chairperson of Business Department, Immaculata College (1974-78).
In Indiana: Teacher, St. John High School, Loogootee (1966-69); Teacher, Washington Catholic High School, Washington (1973-74); Provincial Treasurer, St. Gabriel Province, Indianapolis (1978-85); Student/Administrative Assistant, Cathedral High School, Indianapolis (1985-86); Assistant Planned Giving Manager, Office of Congregational Advancement, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1997-1999); Planned Giving Manager/Coordinator of St. Columbkille Alumnae, Office of Congregational Advancement, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1999-2011); Volunteer, St. Ann Clinic, Union Hospital, Terre Haute (2012-13); Volunteer/Surgery Hostess, Wabash Valley Health Center, Union Hospital (2014-17); Volunteer/Receptionist, Union Hospital (2017-19); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2019).
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