Sister Joan Michel Kirsch, the last surviving pioneer Maryknoll Sisters missionary to the continent of Africa, died July 28, 2014, at Maryknoll Sisters Home Care III, Maryknoll, NY. She was 94 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 71 years.
Born on October 20, 1919, in Wheeling, WV, to Charles and Anna Kress Kirsch, and christened Virginia Dorothy Kirsch, Sister Joan was one of three girls born to the couple. She entered Maryknoll at their motherhouse in Maryknoll, NY, from St. Alphonsus Parish, Wheeling, on September 7, 1943, and received her religious name, which she retained for the whole of her life as a Maryknoll Sister. She made her First Vows on March 7, 1946, at Maryknoll, New York, and her Final Vows on March 7, 1949, in Africa.
Sister Joan was assigned to Tanzania, East Africa (then known as Tanganyika) in 1948, primarily doing catechetical and pastoral work in Kowak, from 1949-1957. She opened the first house in Shinyanga diocese in Buhangija, where she was local superior, while doing pastoral and catechetical work from 1957-1962, then in Sayusayu from 1962-1969.
Sister Joan was next assigned to the Pastoral Institute in Gaba, Uganda, where she was in charge of the Secretariat office and private secretary to the director of the Institute from 1969-1974.
Returning to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY, in 1974, Sister Joan served as assistant secretary to the Center Unit Board, then as a member of the Center’s general secretarial pool, serving various departments, in 1975. She then worked as a secretary in the Center’s Personnel Department from 1975-1991 and for the Center Council from 1992-1994, when she retired.
Predeceased by her parents and sisters, Sister Joan is survived by three nephews, Steven, John and Henry Roth, all of Wheeling.
A Vesper service was to be held for Sister Joan on Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 4:15 p.m., at the Annunciation Chapel, Maryknoll Sisters Center, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial on Friday, August 1, 2014, at 11 a.m. at the same location. Burial will be in the Maryknoll Sisters Cemetery at Maryknoll, NY. Dorsey Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.