A funeral Mass for Sister Joan Marie Burnes was celebrated July 26 at Our Lady of Calvary Church in Philadelphia. Sister Joan, a St. Louis native and member of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, died July 19 in Philadelphia. She was 91 years old.
Sister Joan was born on July 24, 1929, the second child of Edward and Theresa Burnes, in St. Louis. Her family’s parish church was Our Lady of Perpetual Help. When she was 12 years old, the family moved to another home, which was just one block away from the Pink Sisters’ Convent of Perpetual Adoration. This chapel was to be the site of many graces for her and her family. She learned to love the Blessed Sacrament from her parents’ example of frequent prayer there.
Sister Joan attended Notre Dame High School, where a religious sister who taught business skills opened her eyes to the grace of a religious vocation. Upon graduation, she enrolled in Saint Louis University. Responding to a request for assistance with a school program brought her into contact with the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, who at that time were teaching at St. Bridget School. During that time, she recognized God’s call, and applied for admission to the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament congregation. When she told her parents of her desire to be a religious sister, she learned her father had been acquainted with them as a young man. He had worked as an auto mechanic at a garage near the convent, and the sisters frequently asked for help with repairs, and props for their school plays.
She entered the community on Jan. 13, 1948. She made her final vows on July 16, 1955.
Upon profession, she was missioned to St. Martinville, Louisiana, and then to Nashville, Tennessee. She also was assigned to the public relations office, then located at the Shrine of the True Cross; and had other assignments in Carencro, Louisiana and San Carlos, Arizona. In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, she served at St. Bridget School in St. Louis for one year. During that time she was privileged to be present at the last days and deaths of her parents, and of her three other older relatives.
When Sister Joan returned to the motherhouse in 2004, she served at the St. Katharine Drexel Mission Center, assisting with pilgrimages that came to the center, and sharing her gifts and talents in the various activities that took place there. She also formed a liturgy committee, whose members helped to prepare the Sunday Masses at St. Elizabeth Chapel.
In 2013, St. Elizabeth community and St. Michael community combined to become Blessed Sacrament Community. This was a gift for Sister Joan as she found community life with the sisters at St. Michael Hall gave her a new experience of vocation, and the meaning of faithfulness took on a new depth.
In 2017, Sister Joan moved to Paul’s Run Retirement Community in Philadelphia.