Home » Obituaries » Remembrance of the Life of Marie Joann Rekart SL

Remembrance of the Life of Marie Joann Rekart SL

Posted on July 4, 2015, by Loretto Community

Marie Joann Rekart SL
Mar. 19, 1937-July 4, 2015

Marie Joann asked that her own accounts of her life be used in the remembrance after her death. Accordingly, we begin where she began her autobiography:

“The population of Brentwood, Missouri, increased by one on March 19, 1937, when Joyce Rose Rekart came into the world. Born at home with the assistance of Dr. Hayden and my grandmother, Josephine Rekart, I was welcomed by my parents, John Edward Rekart and Annabelle Rickard Rekart, and two curious siblings, John, age 4, and Jacqueline, age 2.”

Of her parents Marie Joann later wrote in her spiritual autobiography: “My parents were a great influence in my early years. Mother told me that she was impressed when she and my father were courting and she asked him about his beliefs. He told her that he would choose death rather than renounce his faith in the Catholic Church. Mother then converted to Catholicism and they were married at the age of 25. Their relationship was good and an inspiration to me and my siblings who assumed we would follow in the same vocation.”

Little Joyce Rekart attended St. Mary Magdalen parish school, taught by Dominican Sisters in Brentwood on the outskirts of St. Louis. These were happy years, she later recalled: “Religion was a very influential part of those years, with processions, May crownings, sodalities and so on. I usually had a very significant part in these ceremonies. I sang in the choir, was prefect of sodality and May Queen. I played softball and basketball on the parish teams…. High school years with the Ursuline Sisters at Eugene Coyle Catholic High School, in Kirkwood, Missouri, was more social than academic for me. I recall proms, dances, picnics and social events more than I do academic achievements.”

“All during high school I prayed to know what God was calling me to. An aunt had told me that my tiny German grandmother, … Josephine Rekart, who had lived with our family [and died when] I was about five years old, always prayed that one grandchild would be a religious. I was the last grandchild and she concentrated all her prayers on me. I feel very strongly at times that it was the prayers of this deeply spiritual woman that got me where I am today.

“With the help of a young priest in our parish, John Dollard, I met the Sisters of Loretto. He had worked with Loretto Sisters in the inner city of St. Louis; he introduced me to the Webster College Sisters. Both Sister Mariella and Sister Carlann were great saleswomen for the Order and I knew very soon that I wanted to share their spirit and goals. I applied for admission and entered on September 8, 1955. I was 18 years old. Life at Loretto was certainly different than anything I could have imagined. But for some unknown reason I loved it and found peace in this new growth period.”

May 24, 1956, Joyce Rose Rekart was received, taking the name Sister Marie Joann, which she retained throughout her nearly 60 years of religious life. She made her final vows on August 15, 1963.

Following the completion of her undergraduate degree, Marie Joann was missioned to St. Philomena’s in Denver where she spent the first of 32 years teaching primary grades and preparing children for First Communion.

“My second assignment was to St. Peter’s in Rockford, Illinois. I taught first grade there for five years. I was glad to be in Illinois as it was closer to St. Louis where my mother was dying of cancer. Frequent trips home told me she was ready for whatever God asked of her. Shortly after she died in 1967, I went back to Denver to teach first grade at St. Mary’s Academy. I was only in Colorado a short time when my father joined my mother. I learned a great deal from them in life and most especially at their deaths. The Sisters were a tremendous support at this time.”

While in Illinois, Marie Joann was encouraged by her principal, Theresa Madden, to begin graduate studies in learning disabilities. “My first year teaching at St. Mary’s was a chance to use the skills I was learning at Northern Illinois University. I discovered a child with severe learning problems and helped her parents to place her in a school to correct her concerns. In gratitude they offered to pay my way to finish my degree in Special Education. What a great help it was to have that knowledge of learning disabilities in a regular classroom!

“When I passed my 55th birthday, I thought of leaving education before I was not good for the children and they were not good for me. It was a difficult decision but I made it and took a position in Deer Creek Canyon operating Jesus Our Hope Hermitage for Father Roger Mollison. New responsibilities presented themselves every day … snow plowing, housekeeping, cooking, maintenance, scheduling and counseling retreatants, managing financial books. There were challenges but they seemed to be matched by miracles and the project, which was operated on a small budget, never operated in the red. In July of 2005 I left the Retreat House after 12 good years. I moved to the Loretto Center in Littleton, Colorado, to take time to discern where God might be calling me next.”

From 2005 to 2014, Marie Joann served the Loretto Community in Denver, as Staff Office Receptionist briefly, then on the staff of the membership outreach team. All the while she continued to maintain the close, personal, loving connections with family, former students and their families, and Loretto members which characterized her daily life from childhood. She moved to the Motherhouse in 2014, to spend years of retirement baking cookies and cinnamon rolls for the Community.

Marie Joann concluded her autobiography thus: “I look back with gratitude and peace. My years in education and those in the mountain retreat have been growth filled and gratifying in many ways. My ‘hundredfold in this life’ is so evident I look forward to that which is to come here and hereafter with joy and expectation.”

Marie Joann’s great heart surprised her. She died at Loretto, on July 4, 2015.


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1 Comment

  1. Avatar mje on August 28, 2016 at 12:00 am

    I’ve searched the internet several times over the last few years to find mention of Sister Marie Joann and only now have found her – I’m saddened to read she has so recently died. Sister Marie Joann was my first grade teacher at St. Peter’s School in Rockford, Illinois over fifty years ago. I believe it was her first year teaching in Rockford (1964-65 school year).

    One morning I arrived for school to find that my desk was missing from it’s normal location in the row of desks. “Sister, someone stole my desk!” I said, alarmed. “It is in the cloakroom and there it shall remain until you learn to keep a tidier desk,” she replied. To the cloakroom I went to organize my desk, tears in my eyes from embarrassment. It was the closest I came to crying during my 8 years of elementary school.

    Although this tale of chagrin always comes to mind when I remember the first grade, I also have many fond memories of Sister Marie Joann: the lovely note she wrote to my parents when my little sister was born that year; playing with us on the playground, her habit billowing in the wind; making our First Confession and First Communion under her guidance; the Nativity play we did at Christmas (I was in the cloakroom again – this time playing one of the unkind innkeepers opening the cloakroom door to gruffly deliver my one line: “There’s no room at the inn.”; her teaching us to sing – blowing on her “pitch pipe” to set the proper key before the start of each song and then marking something called “the arsis and the thesis” with her arm movements during the singing (something, I’ll confess, I never understood); phonics; “new math” and on and on – too many still clear memories to recount here. She was a kind and gentle presence as we started our academic journey.

    I remember she taught us a game called “huckabuckabeanstalk” which involved one child hiding a large silver binder clip somewhere in the room and the other students seeking it. One time when it was my turn to play the hiding role, I clipped it to the back of her veil as she sat at her desk. I thought I was being very bold, but she just laughed.

    One final remembrance: one day Mrs. Flanders, the second grade teacher from the next classroom came into our room with a jacket in her hand saying someone had thrown it over the cloakroom wall from our room into hers (yes! another cloakroom story!) The cloakrooms shared a common wall that didn’t reach to the ceiling. No one admitted culpability. Sister Marie Joann made all the boys stand next to their desks at attention until the guilty party came forward (she knew none of her girls would have done something so dastardly). A long hour passed in silence. Our legs were getting more and more tired. Finally, one of the girls (you know who you are, NL) started crying softly and said, “It was me, I did it.” The boys were vindicated. Sister offered her apology and we learned a lesson about making assumptions.

    Time and life fly too fast. Soon our group of then small classmates will begin to join Sister in the afterlife ourselves for we learned as we grew up that she was not so very much older than we, in fact, a very young woman just starting her religious teaching career in those years. I hope she knew all the vivid impressions she left on a generation of students.

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