The autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux instilled a great desire to become a sister in young Dorothy Stanczak. She was one of four girls and one boy born to Stanley and Frances (Stachowiak) Stanczak in Chicago. Dorothy wrote to several religious orders and received a welcoming reply from Mother Otillia Haeckel with the Sisters of the Divine Savior in Milwaukee. By that time Dorothy was already working to help her mother with expenses after her father died.
At age 17, Dorothy entered the SDS Congregation on September 15, 1937. She took the religious name Joan as a novice on August 12, 1938. Sr. Joan pronounced her first vows on August 13, 1939 and final vows six years later. She majored in sociology and minored in history and English at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee. Sr. Joan also earned a master’s degree in theology from Marquette University in Milwaukee.
Starting in 1942, Sr. Joan dedicated 33 years to education. She served both as principal and teacher in schools staffed by Salvatorian Sisters: Mother of Good Counsel and Divine Savior High School in Milwaukee; Sacred Heart in Edson, St. Paul in Bloomer, and St. Therese in Schofield, all in Wisconsin. She also served at St. Mary School in Landover Hills, Md.
For five years beginning in 1970, Sr. Joan taught at St. Margaret Mary School in Chicago, while also caring for her mother. After her mother died in 1975, Sister Joan refocused her ministry on pastoral care. She received her Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Deaconess Hospital in Milwaukee, and then served as director of pastoral care at St. Mary’s Nursing Home for 10 years. In years to follow, Sr. Joan helped her sister care for her ill husband, served as receptionist at the SDS Community House, and provided pastoral care to our sisters at the former Salvatorian Heights.
When the doors of Salvatorian Sisters Residence (SSR) opened in 2001, Sr. Joan joined other retired Salvatorian Sisters in the newly remodeled assisted living facility. For the next 15 years, she led a Communion service for the sisters, and handled preparations for liturgies at SSR, including selecting hymns. Sr. Joan also led prayer services for deceased Salvatorian Sisters when their bodies were presented in St. Anne’s Salvatorian Campus chapel for their funeral liturgies.
Reflecting on her life, Sister Joan said some of her most treasured experiences called on her own spiritual growth to assist others in walking their spiritual journey. She also said, “Writing my history has been a good experience in reflecting on the good and hard times in my life, and how I felt the presence of God journeying with me these past years. God will not let me down.”
Sister Joan also expressed gratitude for the time she had for prayer and reflection in her years since retiring from active ministry. On October 29, 2016, Sr. Joan died peacefully at age 96 and professed for 77 years. Sr. Joan’s burial in Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee followed the day after her Mass of Christian Burial on November 2 at St. Anne’s Salvatorian Campus Chapel.
Along with her parents, Sr. Joan was preceded in death by her sisters, Eleanor Kucharczyk and Mae Poliquin; her brother Florian Stanczak, and brothers-in-law Joseph Gransee and James Kucharczyk. She is survived by her sister, Irene Gransee; her cousin Eleanor Sternal, nieces, nephews, grand- nieces and nephews and members of the Salvatorian family.
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Mt. 25:21