Meet Sister Joan Panella

Joan loved helping one of her favorite teachers, Sr. Helen Cecilia Miller, in the soda fountain at Notre Dame High School, Belmont, and was attracted to what she learned of the Sisters’ commitment to education and their concern for the poor.

Her own ministries over the next 50 years reflect those same two commitments. Sr. Joan taught in elementary and secondary schools, including Sacred Heart and Madonna in Salinas, and Notre Dame High School in Alameda.  As a counselor at Notre Dame High School in San Jose, she “loved helping the girls grow and change and make something of all their difficulties.” Family friend Mrs. Glenn George remembers Sr. Joan “as a warm, caring counselor” who helped at a critical time in her daughter’s life.

While working in campus ministry at San Jose State University, Sr. Joan was encouraged by Bishop Pierre DuMaine to assist with the San Jose Diocese’s groundbreaking outreach ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics. Later, what began as an internship for Sr. Joan’s master’s degree in social work turned into 14 fulfilling years in a neurological rehabilitation unit at Community Hospital in Los Gatos–a faith-stretching experience for someone with an aversion to hospitals. During emergency “code blue” situations, doctors were reassured by her presence and prayers.

For five years Sr. Joan served as the Residence Coordinator of the Province Center. In March 2010 she retired.