OBITUARY: Sr. Joan Connelly, SSND; served as consultant in Springfield Diocese
WILTON, Conn. – Sister Joan Connelly, a School Sister of Notre Dame who was a Catholic school educator and pastoral associate for more than 50 years, died of cancer on March 21 at Lourdes Health Care Center in Wilton. She was 79 years old and had been a professed member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame for 58 years.
Joan Margaret Connelly was born on Aug. 7, 1934, in Providence, R.I., the first of four daughters born to Margaret (Hopkins) and Thomas L. Connelly. The family lived briefly in Mount Rainier, Md., where she attended St. James School, before moving back to Providence, where she attended Holy Name School and graduated from St. Xavier’s Academy.
She studied at Rhode Island College of Education for one year before entering the candidature of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore in August 1953. As a novice she was given the religious name Sister Mary Thomas Villanova. She professed her first vows in 1955 and her final vows in 1961. Years later she resumed using her baptismal name.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Nazareth College of Rochester in 1962. She also earned a master’s in American studies from St. John’s University in New York in 1967 and a master’s in religious studies from Providence College in Rhode Island in 1976.
Her first ministry in 1955 was teaching sixth grade at St. Michael School in Rochester, N.Y. In 1959 she moved to Fort Lee, N.J., where she taught sixth grade at Madonna School (1959-1961). She later taught grades six, seven and eight at St. Brigid School in Westbury, N.Y. (1961-1968). After 14 years serving in elementary schools, she taught history and religion at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover, N.H. (1968-1970), St. Mary in Bethel Conn. (1970-1971), and Archbishop Walsh High School in Irvington, N.J. (1971-1978).
In 1978, she began a long ministry as a pastoral associate, serving parishioners in New Jersey for 28 years. She served at Sacred Heart in Vailsburg (1978-1984), St Michael’s in Cranford (1984-1988), St. Mary’s in Jersey City (1988-1989), St. Aloysius, also in Jersey City (1989-1998), and Holy Trinity in Westfield (2003-2011). She also was a pastoral associate in Massachusetts, where she served the Diocese of Springfield as a consultant and director of adult religious education (1999-2003). In 2001, while still a pastoral minister, she also became co-director of the SSND associate program for her province. She became director of the program in 2004.
In 2013 she moved to Villa Notre Dame in Wilton, Conn., where she continued to be active in community service to SSNDs and her neighbors. She was regularly ministering to the sick, elderly and shut-ins of St. Luke Parish in Westport, Conn., in the weeks before her death.
She is survived by three sisters, Maureen Connelly and Ann Favali of Narragansett, R.I., and Margaret Cassidy of Warwick, R.I. She also is mourned by three nieces, a nephew, grandnieces, grandnephews and many cousins.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Monday, March 24, in the chapel at Villa Notre Dame in Wilton. Burial followed at St. Mary Cemetery in Bethel, Conn.