The funeral Mass for Sister Joan Holden was celebrated Dec. 28 in the Chapel of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Sister Joan, who was among the first sisters to serve at the newly established Incarnate Word Parish in Chesterfield in the 1960s, died Dec. 20 in San Antonio at the age of 85.
Born in Chicago on April 22, 1933, to Theodore and Margaret (Biggy) Holden, Sister Joan entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in 1951, professed first vows in 1954 and final vows in 1959.
She served in the congregation’s education and pastoral care ministries in Texas and Missouri. She taught at Blessed Sacrament School in St. Louis; Immaculate Conception School, in Jefferson City, Mo.; St. Francis Xavier School in Taos, Mo.; Immaculate Conception School in Macon, Mo.; Dunne Memorial Home in Dallas; and Mount Carmel School in El Paso, Texas.
In August 1968, Sister Joan and a companion were called to the newly established Incarnate Word Parish in Chesterfield. They were among the first sisters in the country assigned to parish work. Sister Joan commented in a letter written at the time of her diamond jubilee, “Working with adults, teens, and children broadened my understanding of Church and God’s presence among all people.”
Sister Joan earned her master’s degree in theology from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in Dubuque, Iowa. This prepared her to serve as hospital chaplain in Milwaukee, Amarillo, Texas, and finally at Incarnate Word Hospital and Compton Heights Hospital in St. Louis. “Being a hospital chaplain taught me how to minister to the sick and dying as well as to families in crisis,” she said. “I grew in compassion and in my understanding of people and the workings of large institutions.”
Sister Joan ultimately earned a doctor of ministry degree from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. Upon completion of her study, she was called to work in campus ministry at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. She later returned to St. Louis, where she actively supported the continuation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word’s mission and ministry at the time of the sale of Incarnate Word Hospital and subsequent establishment of Incarnate Word Foundation.
Immediately preceding her death, she was living in San Antonio, offering assistance to patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and serving as a presence at the University of the Incarnate Word School of Optometry. In her later years, she often repeated, “My only prayer is one of gratitude!”
Sister Joan is survived by her sisters, Sister Alice Holden, CCVI, Margaret O’Brien and Patricia Le Beau; and a brother, Thomas Holden. Burial was in the Convent Cemetery in San Antonio.