A funeral Mass for Sister Joan Uhlen, MM, was celebrated Aug. 16 at the Chapel of the Annunciation at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining, NY. Sister Joan, 95, died Aug. 12 at the Maryknoll Sisters Center. She was a longtime educator and pastoral worker.
Sister Joan was born in St. Louis on Dec. 21, 1923, to Lily Ann (Pistorius) Uhlen and Bernard J. Uhlen. She had three brothers, Herbert, Henry and Raymond; and three sisters, Lorraine, Margaret Ahrens, and Sister Teresa of Jesus, OCD; all of whom have pre-deceased her.
Sister Joan graduated from Rosati-Kain High School in 1941. She then entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining on Sept. 6, 1942. At her reception on March 7, 1943, she received the religious name Sister M. Joan Francis. She made her first profession of vows at the Maryknoll Sisters Center on March 7, 1945, and pronounced her final vows on March 7, 1948, also at the Sisters Center.
She attended Maryknoll Teachers College from 1944-48, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education. She then received her first mission assignment to Kaneohe, Hawaii, where she taught in St. Ann’s Grade School and High School until 1957. Sister Joan returned to New York to study, and in 1958 earned a master’s degree in education from Fordham University. She returned to Kaneohe and was appointed principal of St. Ann’s Grade and High School until 1964. In 1965, she was assigned to the Maryknoll School in Punahou, Hawaii, where she taught English and religious guidance to grades 10 and 12.
Sister Joan returned to mainland United States in 1968 for a renewal period and to do promotion work for the congregation. In 1970, she was assigned to a new mission in Yucatan, Mexico. After language study there, she worked with students in art, films and multimedia.
In 1972, Sister Joan was assigned to Condega, Nicaragua, where she did pastoral work with parish and diocesan teams. She also created educational courses for women and children’s groups. In 1974, she was appointed regional coordinator for the Panama/Nicaragua/El Salvador Region in the Maryknoll Sisters Regional House. She then returned to Condega, where she immersed herself in pastoral work and adult education until 2003. She also called on hundreds of friends to help her construct a retreat house, “Casa de Paz” (House of Peace).
In 2008, Sister Joan returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, where she retired. In 2013, a plaza in Nicaragua located directly across from “Casa de Paz” was renamed in her honor to, “Plaza Hermana Joan Uhlen.”
Burial was in the Maryknoll Sisters’ cemetery.