Joan Shannon on her 90th birthday

Joan Shannon on her 90th birthday

A Song in her Heart: Joan's Story

Joan Shannon is a vibrant woman whose life on the MSS mission has spanned highways and byways and skyways for close on 60 years.   At the age of 92, while her body is no longer robust, her openness of mind and heart continues to welcome people into her life.   Joan is vitally interested in people and rarely talks about herself.   When asked what matters most to her, she says

    My love for MSS

    My love for MSS Mission

    My love for all people but especially for country people.

Born and raised in Brisbane, Joan joined the Missionary Sisters of Service in 1953.   Her first years as a Missionary Sister of Service were spent in rural Tasmania, travelling to country parishes, seeking out people in out-of-the-way places and forgotten corners.

Moving beyond Tasmania, Joan spent years in Wilcannia-Forbes and Toowoomba dioceses, alternating between the mobile mission in the vast western regions of these dioceses and the correspondence school in religious education through which contact with families was maintained between visits.   During the long summer months the heat was often stifling.   The only air conditioning was driving with open windows.  On dusty, unsealed roads windows would have to be closed while other traffic was about. With a song on her lips, Joan took the conditions in her stride.   

In the 1980s, Joan spent two years on an aerial ministry.  Based at Longreach, with Fr Terry Loth as pilot, they visited people on the stations and in the small townships of far south-west Queensland, often crossing into South Australia and the Northern Territory.  The many stories Joan could tell about these years would fill volumes!

Eventually Joan came home to Canaipa at Wooloowin, Brisbane, to care for her ageing sisters, Nance and Win, in their final years.   Here, too, Joan’s pastoral spirit reached out to people in her neighbourhood, family and parish.   As always, Joan was About the Master’s Business.

Age began to catch up with Joan.   She who had always cared for others, now herself needed care.   The transition into this autumn phase of life did not come easily to her.  After some falls, Joan reluctantly moved into care at Holy Cross, Wooloowin. Here she was embraced lovingly and warmly by the Sisters of Mercy who treated her as one of their own.   As she had done so often through her life, Joan adapted to her new situation, and soon felt very much at home.

Joan in younger years, setting out on another missionary journey

Joan in younger years, setting out on another missionary journey

With further deterioration of her physical well-being, Joan moved into Mercy Care at Emmaus, Nudgee, where she is today.   The beautiful physical and spiritual environment of Emmaus nourishes and sustains her. At the same time, Joan’s constant openness and interest in those around her makes her a much-loved presence to fellow residents and staff.

The final words of this brief story come from Maureen Hickling mss:

The blessing and inspiration Joan brings to me comes from the way she is lives and embraces her life with its many challenges.  Joan remains interested in what is going on in her own and other people’s lives.  She is relaxed and present to life as it is, connected to those around her, those who serve her and look after her.  She is ever grateful to all and for all.   She is still that “people person”.

I am grateful beyond words for the grace of Joan’s life, for her clear mind, her goodness and kindness, her journey to the heart of things, her common sense wisdom.  I think of her as a woman always interested in the ordinariness of people’s lives.   She seems to know what really matters.

Thank you, Joan, for the gift you are.  You have been and are grace to my heart.  I am grateful for your presence in my life.  You are daily remembered prayerfully, lovingly, dearly.


 Joan completed her life journey on 29th May, 2014.  She will be much missed by many, yet we rejoice with her at her passing into the fullness of life with the God she loved and served so well throughout her long life.   

Click here to download a pdf file of Bishop Morris' homily, given at Joan's funeral.